Homelessness and Solutions

Homelessness is now well-known as a national problem, one that had been worse in California. As I follow the progress of this issue I rarely read something that to me at least addresses a potential real solution. Mainly because I’ve been wondering who understands the source of the problem, until I read a NYT piece on Dr. Margot Kushel, a longtime advocate for the homeless, now director of the Benioff Homelessness Initiative at UCSF which has a $30 million endowment from the billionaire Salesforce founder. She reminds us that we know what works: Housing First, programs where finding housing is the first and fundamental step to being able to help many who are homeless. But she also acknowledges that “We’ve always known that homelessness is a result, pure and simple, of poverty: the lack of a living wage, the lack of affordable housing and the insidious impact of racism. If we don’t fix the fundamentals, we are just patching a leaking ship. And that is what has happened.”

In my neighborhood as in many others new apartment buildings are going up on almost every block, apartments which are by law exempt from rent control and called luxury units partly to justify their high rents with a slew of amenities. These units are touted by many in politics and elsewhere as the answer to homelessness—implying that a shortage of units is what makes rents unaffordable. And yet when one remembers as was the topic of a post not long ago, that 44% of the labor force work at low paying jobs, economic inequality does seem to emerge as an underlying cause of homelessness. As the California legislature is struggling to come up with a new version of recently defeated AB 50 which wanted to supersede local zoning laws to be able to build more apartments such as those in my neighborhood, the views of Dr. Kushel gain added importance. Let her voice be heard.

Homeless Prevention

New York City has long had a homeless prevention program, enabling people who are about to be homeless to reach out and receive assistance, perhaps legal advice, cash assistance or housing referrals. It is not perfect, but it exists. The program has even shown that helping people before they become homeless is more effective and costs less. Several cities and states have homelessness prevention programs too. According to Google so does Los Angeles, but that’s not quite so. In one of the largest homeless population in the US, homeless prevention is scant, and an op-ed by Adam Murray, executive director of Inner City Law Center, calls for shifting our focus from helping the homeless to preventing homelessness. Preventing homelessness is Continue reading “Homeless Prevention”

60 Gallons Per Homeless

I appreciate how difficult it is to solve the problem of homelessness. I understand that streets needs to be clean, and that businesses have a right to have unencumbered sidewalks so that customers can freely come and go, but I also understand that the homeless are people, many with mental health issues, illnesses, often people who would rather be somewhere else than on the street when it’s cold, or raining, or just to have a spot somewhere they can call home. Los Angeles County has the largest homeless population nationally, 44,000, about half of whom are in Continue reading “60 Gallons Per Homeless”