‘Is Los Angeles Addressing Its Homeless Crisis Correctly?’
Walking the stage at Palisades Charter High School was a monumental rite of passage in my life. Graduating college and becoming an independent adult were experiences that I looked forward to after receiving my diploma.
Experiencing homelessness due to my heroin addiction was not a future I had imagined for myself. While experiencing homelessness, I would have been uncounted because I was sleeping in my car.
I also never used any services that are offered to people experiencing homelessness because of my addiction. Avoiding the pain of heroin withdrawal was more important than sleeping in a bed or eating a hot meal. Despite having a college education, barriers to treatment kept me trapped in my car for six months.
My name is Drew, and my experience is one of many.
We must ask two important questions in regard to this crisis: Are we accurately measuring the homeless population in LA? Are we adequately addressing the substance abuse component of homelessness?
Roughly 30% of unhoused people in the U.S. struggle with substance abuse. Even more concerning, the system that the U.S. Census Bureau uses to count this population is ineffective.
Counts are done by volunteers at shelters, soup kitchens, mobile food stops, and outdoor sites like tent cities and parks. What about people living in vehicles, motels or those who are simply missed?
Many experts agree that current figures are being underreported, which means less federal funding for this challenge. 66,433 people are experiencing homelessness in the City of Angels.
Working at an agency that focuses on the homeless population, I see new faces that need help every morning when serving breakfast. The people I encounter are struggling and distrust the system, which creates fear in asking for assistance.
I am constantly told stories about mistreatment in hospitals, incarceration for receiving substance abuse aid, being harmed and being isolated by housing programs. My name is Gabi and I work with the unhoused population.
There are many improvements to policies on homelessness that must be made. We have to begin addressing this issue from a new perspective.
One proposal is revamping the system that the census uses to count people experiencing homelessness. By having the census recruit more volunteers and include people sleeping in cars and motels, there will be a more accurate understanding of this growing problem.
Another proposal is creating more housing programs specifically equipped to handle substance abuse. Assembly Bill 1197 was introduced to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness in LA by using $1.2 billion in bonds to erect housing units. Unfortunately, data shows that throwing more money at the issue has done nothing to stop the homeless population from growing in size over the past six years.
Why haven’t we used more funds to alleviate the substance abuse issues that many people experiencing homelessness face? Whether substance abuse causes homelessness or homelessness causes substance abuse is irrelevant. Addiction is a barrier that prevents people from getting into a home.
Studies show that Melbourne, Australia, has had success in addressing the substance abuse component of homelessness by creating “government-funded detoxification services, drug and alcohol counseling and support services, and intensive rehabilitation services.”
Using funds from Assembly Bill 1197 to create shelters specifically designed for people struggling with substance abuse would ensure that this population has treatment available if and when they are ready.
By reducing homelessness, we are reducing crime and raising property values for the communities being affected.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that for every dollar invested into substance abuse treatment, society sees about five dollars back.
It is also important to remember that this can happen to anyone. No one could have predicted that Drew would be begging for money at a gas station seven years after snapping photos at his high school graduation.
We must take a different approach. We challenge you to write Mayor Garcetti and Census Bureau representatives about this matter. Adjusting the manner in which the census counts people experiencing homelessness and diverting Assembly Bill 1197 funds can decrease the amount of heartbreak that people experience because of this issue.
Drew Dennett and Gabrielle Lee
Prop 15 and 19
Two propositions, 15 and 19, on the November ballot continue the attack on protections to taxpayers afforded by the original Prop 13.
Yes on Prop 15 will dramatically increase valuations and taxes on most commercial properties and on its face seems harmless to residential property owners, but the vast majority of commercial leases are on a net basis with the tenants paying most expenses, so this higher cost will simply be a pass-thru from property owners to tenants, who in turn will pass-thru to consumers and homeowners via higher prices for goods and services. Or, maybe it will just force small businesses to close their doors.
Yes on Prop 19 allowing for residential reassessments will inhibit the transfer of homes within families, which may be the only hope for many younger people to remain in their community, especially given the values in areas such as the Palisades.
The state currently has the highest income, capital gains, and sales taxes, fees, and assessed values in the country, as well as substantial business taxes from the highly touted fifth largest economy in the world.
Bureaucrats should not be rewarded with additional revenue for poor management of fiscal resources, incurring massive public pension debt, and implementing wasteful, unsuccessful projects (the trillion-dollar train) and programs. They will merely be emboldened to take the next step to their ultimate goal of increasing the residential property tax rate currently locked-in by Prop 13.
As the seemingly favorite presidential candidate of Californians amazingly has already promised federal tax increases, voters should carefully consider the financial ramifications of all propositions to their wallets and the economy in general now and in the future.
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