By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness hosted its first meeting of the year virtually on Monday, January 25, to discuss “Street Drugs and Homelessness.”
PPTFH Co-President Sharon Browning began the program by sharing some updates and remarks.
“First and foremost we want to celebrate everyone who helped us in our community get through 2020,” Browning said. “We were delighted and amazed at how well we were able to do … despite the threat of COVID.”
Browning said in 2020, PPTFH saw, and continues to see, an increase in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness coming to the Palisades, many with severe mental illness and addiction problems.
“Due to this pandemic and its significant impacts on our economy, our workflow and our personal lives, we must anticipate in the coming year increased numbers of people experiencing homelessness in our community and our surrounding region,” Browning said. “With limited resources to help people, there will be some sort of capacity issue that we are going to need to figure out how to address.”
But Browning was optimistic, sharing that there is a lot of hope and energy moving into 2021, precisely because of the support PPTFH received in 2020.
Marrisa Axelrod, director of community nursing for The People Concern, and Veronica De La Cruz, Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney, were invited to the meeting to discuss street drugs, their effects, and the legal aspects of drug sales and possession.
Browning reported in 2020, drug overdoses were responsible for just under 30% of homeless individuals’ deaths, by far the leading cause of death, according to LA County’s report on homeless mortality.
A prevalent topic of discussion was the presence of methamphetamine. Axelrod said although it appears that the drug has been more rampant lately, the truth is it has always been in LA, it is simply making its way into more communities and becoming more accessible.
De La Cruz said penalties for sale and distribution are felonies, but to better address the issue, she encouraged greater efforts in investigating the root of the issue, and criminalizing sales and possession.
“To get a misdemeanor arrest they do a lot of work and it’s useful because we get that individual off the streets and hopefully through the courts … ,” she said. “If we can shift our resources to putting more penalties for the sales and distribution, that might impact [the issue].”
For this to happen, De La Cruz said discussions should take place at the state level.
Axelrod closed her remarks by reminding the community to be empathetic.
“Even if you can’t take the step forward to actually do something to change that system in the moment,” Axelrod concluded, “looking at the experience of seeing someone in a state of desperation, I think can really help trigger us and that compassion that lies within all of us.”
PPTFH invites community members to attend its next meeting, slated for March 22 at 7 p.m.
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