BY: SWIKAR OLI
While some cities tackle their homeless crisis by removing them from public spaces, Los Angeles is going with a totally novel approach to addressing the rapidly-growing issue—actually helping them.
Over the next year, the city has pledged $100 million into projects, starting with “permanent housing and shelter.”
The city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, also plans on expanding capacity and working hours of existing shelters in preparation of El Nino, the winter weather event that climatologists predict may be much bigger than in recent years past. Garcetti called the 26,000 homeless “a symbol [of] our city’s intense crisis.”
The homeless population in Los Angeles live in “encampments from its freeway underpasses to the chic sidewalks of Venice Beach,” The New York Times describes.
Despite the mayor’s promises to end “chronic homelessness,” since he came into office in 2013, the number has grown 12 per cent. And since then, he “has been criticized” for the “heavy-handed approach while doing too little to help people find and pay for housing.”
Using law enforcement does not put the homeless in a better position to help themselves, but the bid to fight homelessness through police work already costs the city more than $100 million.
The plan would also try to make it easier for developers to build affordable housing and for churches and nonprofits to take in people. The Los Angeles Times also reports that lawmakers “pointed to a state law that allows the city to declare a ‘shelter crisis’ and use public facilities such as parks or schools as emergency housing.”
“We need to act like it’s an emergency,” said Councilman Gil Cedillo, the city’s housing committee chairman. “We can’t do business as usual.”
Whether the mayor’s promises and commitment are real or if it is just business as usual is still questionable. Mayor Garcetti says $13 million for initial efforts will be generated from excess tax revenue, but there is not yet clear plans on how he will manage the rest of the money with his 2016 budget.
While everyone is in agreement that $100 million is not enough to tackle an issue that has been growing for decades, the push for more affordable housing and more shelters does begin to address the issue and not just the symptom.