A substantial part of my job in CD13 is, I have learned, to deal with tragedy. The council office receives prompt calls about lethal fires and horrific crimes and accidents. We can often arrange aid, warn neighbors or at least call attention to crises.
But not all tragedies are alike. Some unfold over decades of neglect, abetted by silence and the unforeseen consequences of seemingly sound decision-making. This morning the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has announced the results of their homeless census, undertaken earlier this year. The numbers are both staggering and sadly unsurprising.
On three consecutive nights, LAHSA counted more than 90,000 homeless people in 512 L.A. County census tracts. This would constitute a city larger than 70 of the 88 cities in the county. The resources we will have to commit to these people, including 20,000 individuals in families, are many times more what we have done so far.
And, as I mentioned, we are not completely surprised; for years, homeless advocates used an estimate of 83,000 homeless individuals in Los Angeles County. Many thought that the number couldn't be correct; that a proper count would prove the number lower, more manageable. Now we have counted. The number is even higher. (Interestingly, for the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which excludes Long Beach, Glendale and Pasadena, the number is uncannily close: 83,347 on one night.)
So what do we do now? We aren't starting from nowhere; the establishment of LAHSA turned around years of fighting between the city and the county to avoid responsibility. Other institutions like People Assisting the Homeless, New Image Shelter, and the L.A. Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness (to name only a few) are making strides and building support for change. For my pary, I sit on the board of Bring L.A. Home, and I have helped bring new shelter beds to Hollywood, which serves the largest homeless population outside of downtown. But clearly, a quantum leap of effort, energy and resources is needed. So tell me what you think: what's next?
Councilmembers with New Image board members, from left: Darick Simpson, Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry, Brenda Wilson, Hue Hollins, Wendy Greuel, Lynda Moran, Mae Wood, Faye Stamper-Watkins