Homeless Count Up 45 Percent

  • 06/14/2019
  • James Preston Allen

Greater LA Homeless stats up in CD-15, Buscaino continues with clean ups and blames neighboring cities

By James Preston Allen, Publisher

The June 4 release of  the Los Angeles Homeless Services 2019 point-in-time homeless count the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County is up 12 percent, an increase surpassed by the City of Los Angeles’s 16 percent rise.

But the shocker comes far down the report, on page 27, where the data is listed by city council district and shows the 15th Council District with the third-highest rise in homeless; it’s up by whopping 45 percent since 2018. Clearly whatever Councilman Joe Buscaino has or hasn’t done isn’t working.

This growth in homelessness occurred even as  Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reports it was finding  housing for 21,631 people. The report states that the continued rise in homelessness derives from economic factors that are “driving” the problem.  Wages have not kept pace with rising rents — a worker making minimum wage would have to work 79 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment; creating more than  721,000 households that are severely rent-burdened with one-third of them spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent. Then there’s the housing shortage; the report estimates LA County would need 526,946 new affordable units to meet the demand of low-income renters.

Bottom line, even as the city and county have increased their efforts, helping those 21,631 people off the streets and passing two bond measures to pay for housing and services the afflicted population has grown.  With 72 percent of Proposition HHH funds already committed to build 5,303 housing units, this falls far short of the estimated need, even with some 1400 units slated for completion in 2019-20.  In the Los Angeles harbor area, where some 420 new housing units are now being built and several more in planning, only three units will be for low-income renters. This is because Buscaino believes “we already have too much low income housing in San Pedro, according to one source close to government who explained Buscaino objected to the 20 percent low-income mandate for the Los Angeles County courthouse project proposed on 6th Street in San Pedro.

During the five years since the Tiny Homes battle was fought in the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council District, Buscaino has been scrambling to create the impression he is doing something about the homeless crisis.

First, it was his homeless  task forces that never concluded anything and never issued a final report. Then came the creation of a homeless committee in Los Angeles City Council, which he used to strengthen the 56.11 enforcement code then only belatedly came onboard with Mayor Eric Garcetti to adopt the Bridge Home concept after the mayor made this a priority.

Still only two low-income projects have been completed in all of the 15th district and even the Bridge Home temporary projects have encountered headwinds of resistance and neither the San Pedro nor the Wilmington projects are completed as of this time. However, there is growing support for “solutions” but what exactly that means remains nebulous.

By comparison, other Los Angeles City Council districts have made more progress like the first Bridge home in the El Pueblo Historic District that opened in September 2018.

That $2.4-million shelter opened last year for 45 homeless people in the El Pueblo historic district, part of the city’s A Bridge Home crisis housing project.

At that time officials reported they hoped to open 15 bridge housing facilities by mid-2019 using a boost from one-time state homeless aid that could bring the program’s budget to $75 million. Only two of these projects have been completed citywide. Some 13 sites are in formal review, and others are in the preliminary stages or may be funded separately.

Still, the elusive factor in the city-wide response to a problem that has been decades in the making is that the city’s own bureaucracy seems to be in the way of any kind of rapid response except to the LAPD Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement teams, sanitation department clean ups and other enforcement of 56.11 policies that have been repeatedly challenged in court. Often with the Los Angeles losing even as the public health consequences rise particularly in downtown Los Angeles area around Skid Row where gentrification pressures have only mounted to the growing scarcity of affordable housing.

The continued rise in homeless people in CD 15 seems somewhat shocking in as much as the CD 15 Homeless Working Group, a citizen advisory council, has put a huge effort into solving this crisis along with all of the resources provided by both the city and county.

Yet, this rise amounts to only 810 people more than in 2018, but it is the third largest percentage increase in the city of Los Angeles and amounts to the majority of the increase in the District 4 supervisors area.

Still with all of the resources being thrown at this problem the solution to do something immediately eludes all of the agencies, politicians and groups involved. Obviously another tactic needs to be used by the city.

However on the day after the report’s release the LAPD, LA Sanitation and LAHSA were once again executing a “Clean-up” on 9th and Beacon streets in San Pedro under the HOPE team acronym with a sign posted that any belongings confiscated could be picked up at an address in 90013. The very next day Buscaino claimed on ABC TV that other cities were dumping the homeless into his district in violation of court rulings. He sites one lone example from last year of a video showing an LASD officer dropping off a homeless person at a bus stop at the corner of 25th Street and Western Avenue, near where Buscaino resides.

Previously, Buscaino’s own survey of homeless people in the Harbor City area of his district discovered that some 86 percent of the unsheltered residents were from the same area before they became homeless, yet he now claims dumping as a deflection to any criticism of his own and Garcetti’s failed policies.

Only Councilman Jose Huizar seems to be getting the idea that an immediate “triage” approach is the only practical strategy to address the growing homeless and public health crisis, now, rather than later.

The triage approach would treat this issue the same way the United Nations deals with refugee camps in foreign countries after natural disasters or displacement from wars.

Clearly the city and the county have resources for immediate safe camping, parking and sanitation off of the public right-of-ways on publicly owned lands, but they can’t seem to motivate the agencies involved to get on the same page with city leadership in calling this a crisis with All-hands-on-deck approach.

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James Preston Allen

James Preston Allen is the founding publisher of Random Lengths News. Mr. Allen has been involved in community affairs for more than 40 years in the Los Angeles Harbor Area.