LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Community action must be taken on homelessness

Los Angeles — a city well-known to many, but yet do they really see what lies beneath many of the tourist attractions? It’s now a city filled with homeless individuals and families occupying sidewalks and freeway underpasses.  A state of emergency was declared in Los Angeles on Sept. 22, Los Angeles is the only city to take such a critical step toward addressing the growing issue of homelessness. Since 2013, there has been a 12 percent increase totaling nearly 26,000 homeless individuals and families, 18,000 of which are unsheltered.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to spend $100 million on housing services. This is a positive step for Los Angeles leadership. However, the mayor has yet to say where this money will be coming from and what particular services will be funded. These are fundamental questions that need to be answered. The longer the wait for action, the greater the issue becomes.

Unlike many other urban cities such as New York, a vast majority of the homeless individuals are unsheltered. One of the main contributions of unsheltered homeless individuals is the lack of affordable housing in the Los Angeles area. Many of the people receiving housing vouchers are unable to cover their total rental costs. The issue at hand is the lack of affordable and sustainable resources.

There have been many resources allocated for these individuals, but the question on the table: Are the offered resources sustainable? Let’s take for example the Tiny Home Project. This project provided homeless individuals a mobile house that was the size of a doghouse which were placed on public streets. Many of the individuals were grateful for the roof over their heads, but admitted they need more space and lacked basic amenities. This project targets one of the needs which was providing a roof over their heads, but they still lacked bathrooms and storage spaces. This project created controversy among community members. On one hand, locals were concerned with their safety because many of these come from diverse backgrounds such as mental illness, previous offenders and substance abusers to name a few. On the other hand, community advocates felt that dog houses were not sustainable. These individuals lacked basic necessities and amenities such as a bathroom, kitchen and storage space.

With that being said, there are many resources being offered on a macro level, which cannot meet the basic needs on an individual level. There are many options being proposed, but community needs to support. One of those options involves finding individuals who are willing to either donate land to the community or the city buys a plot of land to build homes for individuals similar to the mobile-home park layout. The second option would be to work with landlords and have critical discussions regarding the stigmatization of section 8 housing candidates. It is critical that we break these barriers which prohibit these individuals from receiving affordable housing. I stress the need for community support because in order to address the growing issue there must be community buy in.

We can only blame community leaders to a certain extent. It takes people power to create an action plan and follow through with it. It is our job as a community to implement action steps and advocate for the need of sustainable housing.

Justice has not been served until all homeless individuals are treated with dignity and compassion by our community and elected officials. Justice isn’t served until homeless victims are informed of all their rights throughout the justice process — rights that empower them, give them important choices, and offer them opportunities to have voices and choices in their cases and in their future. In Los Angeles, we can be “bystanders” to justice, or we can recognize that justice for one person who is affected by homelessness  is truly justice for us all. If you or someone you know is concerned about justice and safety in our community, you can help out by volunteering and advocating for homeless assistance programs.

Syeda Jaffery

Masters in Social Work, First-Year Student

Danielle Linderstorm

Masters in Social Work, First-Year Student

1 reply
  1. Liberty Minded
    Liberty Minded says:

    Who is in place to adjudicate “justice” for the homeless? A city like LA has millions of people with diverse interests. There are many specials interests that compete for the taxpayers dollars. Unless the homeless become more powerful than the local unions, government unions, or sports teams they cannot expect to get the same lavish treatment. Unfortunately, the homeless are not large campaign contributors, as such they will be treated as second class citizens.

Comments are closed.