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After years of neglect, Los Angeles has begun addressing its growing homeless population during the pandemic — but not in the way advocates hoped. Controversy first erupted in April when police forcibly removed a large encampment along Echo Park Lake. Months later the city began clearing Venice Beach, an area famous for its unhoused residents. These residents were promised shelter but instead faced a new law that researchers are now finding is nearly impossible to abide by.
Signed last month, the anti-camping ordinance bans unhoused residents from sitting, lying, or sleeping in (basically) any public space, including varying distances from underpasses, bridges, tunnels, schools, libraries, daycares, parks, driveways, exits, entrances, and even homeless shelters. Researchers can’t even map where the unhoused can exist with all these restrictions.
So what can be done? Earlier this month, LA City Council approved the building of 25,000 public housing units for the homeless by 2025, though a short-term solution is still needed for those affected by the latest ban. There’s hope in a new program called Street Engagement Strategy which advocates want tested and launched before the anti-camping ordinance takes effect. Overall, increasing the supply of housing is a priority not only for the current homeless population, but the growing number of those at risk of becoming unhoused.
Looking around the world, there’s a lot to learn from:
- Within the U.S., both Atlanta and Houston have more than halved their homeless populations over the past decade — even with rising rent — by investing public and private dollars into a variety of housing options. In Atlanta, one of the more innovative solutions pairs a supportive host-family with homeless LGBTQ young adults.
- Turn to Europe and Finland’s homeless population has dropped from 18,000 to ~2,000, thanks to unconditional free housing for the homeless. Many of the buildings include large communal areas for cooking, entertainment, or socializing to promote community. As a result, the country has saved $18,500 per homeless person per year.
🎬 Take Action
Many cities, including LA, are citing the need for hydration for homeless populations suffering from extreme heat across the globe. Consider keeping extra water bottles handy to pass out to unhoused residents you come across.
- Vice: (Where we found this story) 1 week old | 6 mins long
- CalMatters: Atlanta & Houston’s success June 2020 | 35 mins long
- Christian Science Monitor: How Finland basically ended homelessness 3 years old | 11 mins long
- California Globe: LA to add 25,000 public housing units 19 days ago | 7 mins long
- Spectrum News 1: Street Engagement Strategy and its status 4 days ago | 6 mins long
- LA Times: Buying luxury properties as affordable housing 1 week ago | 9 mins long
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If we can’t stay on Venice Beach, where can we go?
Keep palm and carry on!
No but really, where?
Art Credit: ASCII.CO.UK