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Homelessness by the district in South LA

Is Measure H helping?

Lisa Fitch OW Contributor | 7/11/2019, midnight

One-third of the nation’s homeless population now lives in the state of California. Even the White House has taken notice.

“It’s inappropriate,” President Trump said during a Fox News interview during his recent visit to Japan. “We have to do something. And you know, we’re not really equipped as a government to be doing that kind of work.”

Nevertheless, on the first of July, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti stated that he will lead a coalition of mayors to Washington D.C., calling on Congress to pass the Ending Homelessness Act, sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43).

The act would direct more than $13 billion to support the work of cities on the front lines of the homeless crisis.

Even though L.A. County voters passed the landmark Measure H sales tax—which is currently raising about $355 million annually to serve the homeless—the number of new persons on the streets is growing faster than affordable housing can be built.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s (LAHSA), which conducts federally mandated homeless counts of persons living on streets and in shelters, LA is the least affordable housing market in the United States because wages have not kept up with rising housing costs.

“Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night,” said Peter Lynn, LAHSA executive director.

According to the count, Black people in LA County continue to be four times more likely to experience homelessness. In 2017, Blacks represented only 9 percent of the general county’s population, yet comprised 40 percent of the homeless count.

Last fall, LAHSA called for the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness to better understand this issue. The committee’s summary didn’t mince words.

“The impact of institutional and structural racism in education, criminal justice, housing, employment, health care and access to opportunities cannot be denied: homelessness is a by-product of racism in America,” it concluded.

“Systematic racism, I agree,” Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said. “One of the reasons it’s so bad in our community is that back in the day the desire and urgency weren’t there.”

Nearly1650 homeless reside in Herb Wesson’s 10th Council District. Forty-three percent of that number identify as Black.

“We’re constantly building facilities,” Wesson said, pointing out that there are plans to build housing for homeless women in the parking lot of his Western Avenue District 10 office. Two buildings have already been constructed on Washington Blvd., near his home.

Additionally, Wesson would like to expand the safe parking lots in the city’s churches to give services to the increasing number of persons sleeping in their vehicles.

“If you’re a mother of two, sleeping you your car, you sleep with one eye open at night,” Wesson said, adding that safe parking programs include security guards and service counselors. “Individuals are pre-vetted and come in the evening to use the restroom facilities and showers.”

The councilman plans to expand recruiting efforts to local religious facilities.

“Churches are the backbone of our community,” Wesson said. “They have the expertise, they have the desire and the have the humanity.”