(Editor’s note: these comments can be read on the website://lacity.primegov.com/Portal/Meeting?compiledMeetingDocumentFileId=8168. Circling the News will share one a day until the L.A. City Homelessness & Poverty Committee meeting is held on May 13.)
Submitted by Jessica Copenhaver on April 26 for public posting.
I know what it is like to be food and housing insecure. I grew up in government housing in New York City, living in abject poverty for the first 20 years of my life.
When I had my first job, working at the White House, my mother was homeless, and my father was in prison.
Through grueling decades of education, hard work, luck and (yes!) government assistance over the years, I have built a beautiful life in Malibu with my husband and two young children.
Despite the suffering and violence, I experienced growing up, nothing could prepare me for what I am seeing in Los Angeles today. Poor people (like everyone else) used to be expected to follow laws, respect private property and social norms and find a way to build a better life in our meritocracy.
Where I grew up, dignity was something each person strived for regardless of the hand they were dealt. Unfortunately, these norms have given way to government-sponsored mayhem. There is no moral high ground in tolerating, even encouraging, the chaos and lawlessness that is a reality for so many LA neighborhoods today.
On the Westside, a coalition is quietly and politely building to oppose the tiny houses at Will Rogers beach.
Sadly, many residents fear speaking out too strongly because of “cancel culture” but behind the scenes homeowners and renters alike are panicking at the thought of our political leaders turning the Crown Jewels of our communities – parks, beaches, and open spaces – into homeless encampments.
In Venice, Brentwood, Westwood and Studio City, we have seen the devastating consequences of these decisions.
Venice has become an apocalyptic hellscape. I would not dream of bringing my children there or encouraging out-of-town tourists to visit. My twin sister, who has lived in Studio City for years, is selling her house in a fire sale and moving to Palos Verdes in search of safety.
Mentally ill people are running through her streets naked, wielding machetes and nun chucks. It is all so horrifying. And this is through the eyes of women who grew up in New York City during the height of the crack epidemic.
Our parks and public spaces are littered with bodies, trash and feces. I’ve called the police from playgrounds in Santa Monica many times — once because a completely naked, deranged and filthy man was standing in the women’s bathroom. I was traumatized and shaking.
Other times I’ve called the police because full on brawls were breaking out on the bike path in front of my children. It’s not ok. There is no moral high ground in tolerating, even encouraging, the chaos and lawlessness that is a reality for so many LA neighborhoods today.
The homeless I encounter are not “unhoused neighbors” who are down on their luck. These are people who need tons of help, who have no relationships or support systems because they are mentally ill and / or chronically addicted to drugs.
Moving them to beachfront homes in Pacific Palisades, which has 15+ schools within two miles, is absurd and not helpful to anyone (homeless or housed).
Children deserve a childhood. Hardworking adults who have invested in themselves and their communities deserve a better quality of life.
And the city itself should think more about how it can preserve and perpetuate its competitive advantage in coming years as more and more people will have a choice as to where they live and work.