The homeless community in the Los Angeles County has been at a rapid rise in population. There have been many attempts to help sustain the population but yet there is still no answer to this ongoing problem. Currently there are around 60,000 homeless people living in the Los Angeles County. More than half of that homeless population is in the city of Los Angeles. There are many key contributing factors that lead to the homelessness of these people. Some main causes to this extreme issue is lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, mental illness, and substance abuse.
People who experience homelessness are not distinct and separate from the rest of the population. In fact, the line between being housed and unhoused is quite fluid. Homelessness is usually the result of the impact of a number of factors, rather than a single cause. The factors can be an interplay between structural factors, systems failures and individual circumstances.
Structural factors are economic and societal issues that affect opportunities and social environments for individuals. People who are suffering through poverty are frequently unable to pay for necessities such as housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Poverty can mean that an individual or family is one unfortunate event like an illness or accident away from living on the streets.
Systems failures occur when other systems of care and support fail, requiring vulnerable people to turn to homelessness. Examples of systems failures include difficult transitions from child welfare, inadequate discharge planning for people leaving hospitals, corrections and mental health and addictions facilities and a lack of support for immigrants and refugees.
Personal circumstances and relationship problems fall under the individual circumstances category. Traumatic events such as house fires or a job loss, personal crisis such as a family break-up or domestic violence are examples of personal circumstances that can cause most people to become homeless. Relational problems can include family violence and abuse, addictions, and mental health problems of other family members also lead to homelessness.
There are numerous reasons as to why a particular family or individual is going through homelessness. Manny of the people who become homeless today were either war veterans or military veterans. They also might have been from the foster care system. According to the Los Angeles Almanac out of the entire Los Angeles County 23% suffered from severe mental illness and 36% suffered from domestic violence. Currently downtown Los Angeles (Metro LA), San Fernando Valley, and South Los Angeles are where most of the homeless population is. Just between those three cities the population of the homeless community is approximately 34,000. So if our county is trying to fix this ongoing problem we need to start in these particular cities. Whether it’s shelters, job offerings, supplies, or food drives we need to help the homeless get off the streets and into good stable lives.
So the big struggle right now in today’s society for the homeless community is finding a place to live that is financially manageable. Recent studies have shown that on any given day there is an average of 83, 347 homeless people in the streets and in shelters on any one night in the Los Angeles County and there is an average of 224,203 homeless people annually. Currently in the City of Los Angeles there are more than 27,000 people experiencing unsheltered homelssness and there are only 8,100 sheltered beds for them.
As a city this issue had to be adressed and mayor Garccetti was in fact able to pass a measure to build 30 new homeless shelters in hopes to add a combined total of 2,300 new sheltered beds throughout the los angeles county. While the process has begun and there has been at least 9 shelters completed. These extra nine shelters added 500 more beds for the homeless. Mayor Garcetti is actually trying to add another 900 beds but the county is already defiant about paying for the first 2,300. Although this is a huge step into helping sustain the homeless population there are still gonna be so many left on the streets that we need more ways of helping the Los Angeles County homeless community.
Unemployment issues and lack of affordable housing raises a huge concern for the homeless population rising. Even the cost of living is very high right now in the Los Angeles County. The average apartment goes for rent at 2,300 dollars a month. That adds up to 27,000 dollars a year. The average salary as of now is 49,000 dollars. On average renters are paying 47% of their annual income towards their housing. In order for housing to be considered affordable, one should not spend more than 30% of its income on rent. Therefore a working person needs to earn nearly 42 dollars per hour or 87,880 dollars per year in order to afford the average rent in Los Angeles. A full time minimum wage worker will make only 19,000 dollars a year and that is nowhere near enough to live on your own. Los Angeles County is now considered the least affordable rental market in the country making housing out of reach for most middle class families and almost impossible for those making minimum wage.
It seems as if the community instead of trying to help the homeless population are instead pushing them away. Businesses have even gone to the extent of putting “obstacles” around the sidewalks of there establishment to avoid the homeless community to set camp on there sidewalks. In parts of South Los Angeles, business owners have built chain link fences around their buildings. Venice has seen a huge growth of sidewalk planters. In Koreatown, orange mesh fences around establishments are like trees in a forest. Still other Angelenos have taken to planting rose bushes and pointy cactuses in the “furniture zone,” the city’s designation for the sometimes paved and sometimes grassy area between the sidewalk and street. That’s where “obstacles” are being placed the most, usually without permission from the city. With this occurring it just comes to show that many disregard the problem we are having. Instead of creating a movement to help find them or build them shelter the Los Angeles community seems to just be pushing them away as if they were some rodents. I personally find it crazy how one city can lead the country in having the most wealthy people living in nice houses and mansions. While at the same time in the exact same city holds the highest population of homeless people.
Another huge factor that leads to homelessness is the foster care system. Yes this system is a great sytem that helps children find a safe stable home. But what happens when that child becomes 18 years old and the foster parents no longer are responsible for them. Those foster parents can choose wether to coninue carrying for the “adult” or they cna legally send them to be on their own. Unfortunately there are many instinces where once the foster child turns 18 they are forced to live on their own. In the nation there has been at least 50% of the homeless population who were at one point in the foster care system. There is a history of becoming homeless at a very young age if you were in the foster care system. When do youth become adults? If you ask the foster care system in most places, it’s at the age of 18, when youth “age out,” or are required to exit the system. More than 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year. This means that they have to learn to meet their own needs, as they no longer will have their needs met by the state. They must identify and maintain housing, find a job, and manage their own finances. So each year, more than 20,000 youth must rapidly become adults. Coming out of foster care leaves them in a precarious situation in which they are vulnerable to homelessness. If we know that youth exiting foster care are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, what can we do to support this transition for the youth who are likely to become homeless? And, how do we know which of these youth are most likely to become homeless?
There has actually been one city in particular that has done a great job in sheltering their homeless population. That city is New York city which, was also known for having a high population of homelessness. New York currently has only 6% of the homeless population of that city living outside in the streets with no shelter while compared to Los Angeles’ 75% living on the streets. New York City succeeded this by creating a policy called “The Right To Shelter” this meant that the city had to provide enough sheltered beds for each homeless person that request one. New York now has a comprehensive network of shelters and apartments that provide housing for all of the city’s 63,000 homeless residents. When it needs extra beds, New York will even pay to put up the homeless in Holiday Inns and other hotels and motels. The City of Los Angeles does have a smaller homeless population but out of there 36,000 people 75% are living on the streets. The mayor of Los Angeles has actually considered running this system but they are looking into making it more stable for the homeless community in Los Angeles.
Homelessness could be greatly reduced if people with severe mental illness were able to access supportive housing as well as other necessary community supports. Because they often lack the ability to sustain employment, they have little income. Delusional thinking may lead them to withdraw from friends, family and other people which leads to those with mental illness with loss of support. This loss of support leaves them fewer coping resources in times of trouble. Mental illness can also impair a person’s ability to be resilient and resourceful. It can cloud thinking and impair judgment. For all these reasons, people with mental illness are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness. People with mental illness experience homelessness for longer periods of time and have less contact with family and friends.
To end homelessness in America, we must strengthen our ability to prevent it in the first place. So how can we prevent this ongoing situation in America and in the Los Angeles community. To end homelessness we have to start by trying to prevent it in the first place. For more than two decades emergency services in the form of soup kitchens and shelters have been the dominant response to homelessness. While these services are important in helping meet people’s immediate needs, it does not have the effect of reducing and ending homelessness. In fact, these responses can trap people in homelessness and make it very difficult to become safely and securely housed. Giving people access to support services and a place to stay can reduce the number of those living on the streets. But can that be done affordably?