Viewpoint: Taking Care of the Homeless in Simple Terms

Homeless encampments in L.A.

Los Angeles residents have been told over and over the reason for the more than 75,000 homeless on the streets of this county is because there is not enough affordable housing. . . .and more money is needed.

When officials are pressed about homeless addicts or the mentally ill, residents are told, “that’s a complex issue.”

The Los Angeles Times periodically runs stories about the homeless and on July 23, they ran a 5,300 word, several-page story (“Dreams Crash into Harsh Reality”).

This editor was confused about whether the story was supposed to gain sympathy for the homeless, or just confirm what many residents suspect that homelessness is not a housing crisis.

The story began “Since arriving in L.A. County, Andrew Truelove has spent most nights sleeping in a Torrance parking lot while looking for housing.”

In 2019, Truelove, a Virginia resident, received a $50,000 in heritance from his dad, but by June was down to $700.

Starting in 2010, he was in a Virginia prison. While outside a school, and carrying a lug wrench, he grabbed an eight-year-old girl by her backpack and was incarcerated, although he claims he was trying to protect students from bullies.

He believes that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting never happened and stole signs in 2014 memorializing the victims, for which he got additional jail time.

A psychiatrist found that Truelove had symptoms of a bi-polar disorder. A judge ordered psychiatric care and that Truelove take psychiatric medicine. He was released from prison in April 2021 and made his way to California to Silicon Valley with hopes of starting a social media site.

After living in a homeless encampment there, he came to Los Angeles.

Truelove was accepted into two different shelters (Beacon Light and A Bridge Home Shelter in San Pedro) but was kicked out for failing to follow the rules.

The L.A. Times wrote, “Truelove is left to navigate a confusing social services landscape and jostle for scarce shelter beds and scarcer permanent housing in a sprawling region with too long a line for too little help.”

When the story ended, Truelove, a chain-smoker, was still on the street. His half sister sent him $20 a day for food, while he was waiting for Virginia’s decision on whether he is eligible for disability benefits.

INSIDE SAFE:

When Mayor Karen Bass came into office, there were high hopes that her “Inside Safe” would start to make a dent in the homeless population by moving people into apartments.

Is it up to the Mayor to find places for people like Truelove, who moved here from out-of-state, with no family, no job prospects and no place to live?

A July 31 L.A. Time Story (“1 out of 6 Have Left the Housing Provided by Inside Safe), reported that LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) said that 153 people or 10.5% of the Inside Safe participants have exited the program: six died (four from fatal overdoses), four were placed in medical or psychiatric facilities and three were incarcerated.

There is an 83 percent housing retention rate but, “a significant number of participants have gone back to the streets.”

Of the 1,463 people served by Inside Safe so far, 1,105 are living in interim housing—the vast majority of them in motels, according to LAHSA’s report.

Bass said she has been told that one reason for the departures is dissatisfaction with the rules in place at the program’s hotels and motels. “At the L.A. Grand Hotel, which is in downtown Los Angeles and currently being used as temporary homeless housing, residents have been prohibited from having guests in their rooms, she said.”

L.A. Grand Hotel is being used as temporary homeless housing.

MORE MONEY—LA CITY

Los Angeles voters passed Proposition HHH in 2016, which enabled the City to issue $1.2 billion in bonds to build housing for the homeless.

In a March 2023 story in the Los Angeles Daily News (“Los Angeles Voted to Raise $1.2 billion to House Homeless. Did it work? Critics are frustrated by growing costs, delays. Proponents say stay tuned — more projects coming online soon.”)

In a report released by former city Controller Ron Galperin, it was estimated that LA was on track to complete 5,873 units towards the goal of 7,000 units. As of August 2020, 179 supportive units had been built with HHH funds and another 5,522 were under construction or in pre-development.

According to the Housing Department, 37 buildings were open as of the end of 2022, containing nearly 2,300 permanent supportive housing units.

The story noted that “Galperin agreed the bond measure was presented to voters in a way that the reasonable understanding was that there would be 10,000 units funded through Prop. HHH.”

It appears there may be 8,600 units by 2026. Galperin in an audit of the program showed that per unit costs were climbing to excessive levels. By 2019, the median per-unit cost had grown to $531,373, with more than 1,000 units projected to cost more than $600,000.

“The median cost of building these units approaches – and in many cases, exceeds – the median sale price of a condominium in the City of Los Angeles ($546,000) and of a single-family home in Los Angeles County ($627,690),” Galperin wrote in a 2019 report.

Will voters get the 10,000 units for the homeless they were promised for the money? Or is more money needed?

Residents were told the UAL or the Mansion Tax was passed in Los Angeles in the November 2022 election was to help funding for the homeless. The law went into effect April 1, but currently it is under legal scrutiny.

When it was rainy outside, homeless slept in elevators.

MORE MONEY – LA COUNTY:

According to Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors budget, the board approved a $532.6-million Homeless Initiative spending plan for fiscal year 2022-23.

About 87 percent of the spending plan, $466.75 million, will come from Measure H, a 1/4-cent sales tax approved by County voters in 2017 to address and prevent homelessness. The remaining $65.86 million represents state funding.

The County’s spending to address homelessness exceeded $1 billion in fiscal year 2021-22.

In the 2015 homeless count in L.A. County there were 44,359 homeless. In 2023, there were 75,518 homeless. In Los Angeles City, there were about 25,686 homeless in 2015, now the population is estimated at 46,260.

In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, the actor heard a voice telling him “If you built it, he will come.”

There are now many books, and articles with the idea “If You Build It” that explore how increasing the supply of something can influence and accelerate demand. What started as  compassion has now grown into an industry that is advancing at an alarming rate.

This campsite was cleaned and more than eight large garbage bags were filled.

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5 Responses to Viewpoint: Taking Care of the Homeless in Simple Terms

  1. RW Archibald says:

    I was asked by my colleagues to subscribe to your newsletter because it was the best in the Palisades, but this article convinces me that your reporting panders to your readers just like much of the so-called mainline press. Simplistic and insinuating reporting does not help.

    Your heading says this is an opinion piece. What is your opinion? Best I can I can infer from your piece is that everything is amiss. If that is all you wanted to convey, you succeeded; if you wanted to delve into the difficult problem of people experiencing homelessness and the policy issues confronting both governments and citizens, you failed.

  2. Bruce Schwartz says:

    Until the ‘Housing First’ method is changed to ‘Evaluation First ‘ method , we the public are being duped by our leaders. We need to find out who the homeless are first to best evaluate how to deal with what they need. The idea that we are going to build $600,000 a door housing and solve this crisis is ludacris . I am calling for a ‘Citizen Oversite committee ‘ of heavy hitters to demand change to the ‘Housing First’ to the Evacuation First’ method . How about auditing where all billions of dollars have been spent?

  3. Kathleen Jensen says:

    I hope changes at LAHSA will improve spending accountability & homeless triage methods. Last week LA County Supervisor Lindsay Horvath was appointed as LAHSA Chair. Former LA Councilwoman & unsuccessful Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuhel will remain with LAHSA as vice Chair. LAHSA staff salaries are a HUGE part of the budget, but that’s another story (as previously covered by CTN). https://www.lahsa.org/news?article=930-supervisor-horvath-to-chair-lahsa-commission

  4. Nicole says:

    I enjoy reading Sue’s newsletters for community information but do agree with the reader above that her reporting/opinion is often lacking and to me sounds like whining. In contrast, an article I read a few years ago still resonates with me regarding the complexities of the homeless issue. I suggest reading it as it does give insight into the lives of those on the verge of homelessness. Sorry if it is behind a paywall: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/magazine/extended-stay-hotels.html

  5. Steve says:

    I agree with Bruce above. We need to skip right to the “evacuation first method.” Anchorage shouldn’t be the only municipality trying this approach.

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