By BARRY LANK
Homelessness is our topic this week as part of The Eastsider’s coverage of city council races in Districts 1 and 13. We asked the candidates running in the March 7 primary to respond to the following:“The number of homeless in L.A. has only been going up, and Angelenos have reacted with a mixture of sympathy, disdain and impatience. How do we stem – or at least manage – this rising tide?”
Here are the answers we received:
Council District 1 includes all or portions of Angeleno Heights, Cypress Park, Echo Park, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights and Mount Washington
First, direct assistance to groups and agencies providing aid to those on the streets.
Second, raising everyone’s standard of living with legal places to go to the bathroom or take a shower.
Third, coordinated work with public agencies, NGOs, and neighborhood groups to do more than shuffle people from one back alley to another.
Long term, the construction of supportive housing and small shelters across the city and unlocking affordable housing options (both publicly subsidized housing, small secondary units, and assistance to co-operatives and land trusts).
Contrast this approach to the press-release hype-based “advocacy” we’ve gotten in CD1 the past four years.
In Northeast L.A., we are helping the homeless more than ever before, especially veterans who are about 10% of the total homeless in the county. But it is not enough. Our efforts still emphasize law enforcement too much and do not address the economic trends that make people homeless in the first place. We should seek “housing first” solutions and ask for ideas from the homeless themselves, and from the people who work with them. We can set up campgrounds and RV parks for a small fee. We can also put a moratorium on no-fault evictions and rent increases of more than 3% and extend rent control to all, because lack of affordable housing is creating homelessness.
Council District 13 includes all or portions of Atwater Village, Echo Park, Elysian Heights, Elysian Valley and Silver Lake
Mitch O’Farrell (Incumbent)
Ending homelessness requires adequate resources and a relentless determination to get service resistant individuals to accept housing. The permanent supportive housing model includes on-site physical, mental health, and narcotics addiction programs.
Homelessness and the affordable housing crises are related. Preserving existing affordable housing units and producing more affordable housing options across the city has been a focus of mine. Since taking office, we have a net gain of more than 900 affordable units in the 13th District already built or approved, including permanent supportive housing for the homeless. We raised the minimum wage and adopted the ‘Ban the Box’ initiative to give those with criminal backgrounds a second chance at employment.
It absolutely starts with recognizing the homeless as members of our community – as people. Not only are they entitled to the basic human rights of food, shelter and health care, but they are worthy of our investment as well. Complaints that they are criminal, dirty, or blighted are not only insults; they are a diversion from the true evil that perpetuates their station – poverty and institutional neglect.
The issue of homelessness is complicated, tragic and most deserving of attention and practical solutions. Housing is at the heart of the solution but it must be done in liaison with necessary sustainable health care to address health issues that include mental illness. It truly will take a village of humanity’s finest to help alleviate homelessness. We must have public/private partnerships that come together to funds necessary housing (conventional and non-conventional). Every available unoccupied city structure and vacant land represents an opportunity for housing and must be explored. Non-profit health clinics are a fantastic resource to deliver compassionate healthcare to homeless communities. Lastly, I want family reunification to be an intricate part of any effort to end homelessness.
The city, the county and the federal government all need to work in a coordinated manner with the most effective non-governmental entities to manage a multi-pronged approach. This includes 1) finding both short-term and long-term housing for those experiencing homelessness; 2) providing medical treatment (mental and physical); and 3) responding to the concerns of the residents and businesses affected. Inevitably there will be and are conflicts that include civil rights, safety and economics. While it seems LAPD has been asked to step down from a more aggressive approach, it does leave residents and businesses feeling under-siege.
Unless we make a coordinated and dynamic effort to address this, it will only be further aggravated by the inevitable cyclic economic downturn in the next few years. Very few people choose to be homeless, but everyone deserves respect. That said, all parties have reasonable concerns that need to be addressed and recognized.
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- The City of Los Angeles will hold a primary election on Tuesday, March 7
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