BROKEN HOME

Los Angeles, teeming with homeless people, declared a state of emergency

Los Angeles, where the homeless were once mostly concentrated in downtown’s infamous Skid Row, is now so inundated with homeless people that tent cities are cropping up all over the city in highly visible places. So overrun are its highways, parks, and underpasses by the sharp uptick in its homeless population—a 12% increase over the last two years alone—that today (Sept. 22) it declared a state of emergency.

The announcement, made by the City Council and mayor Eric Garcetti, included plans to pledge $100 million of the city’s budget toward housing projects and other initiatives to help the homeless. Councilperson Gilbert Cedillo said during a press conference that the problem’s spread throughout the city was interfering with other priorities. “If we want to be a great city that hosts the Olympics and shows itself off to the world,” he said, “we shouldn’t have 25,000 to 50,000 people sleeping on the streets.”

Garcetti called LA’s homeless population a problem that’s been pushed “from neighborhood to neighborhood” and “bureaucracy to bureaucracy” for far too long. “Every single day we come to work, we see folks lying on this grass, a symbol of our city’s intense crisis,” he said.

LA’s crippling rents and declining wages—coupled with a slow-recovering economy and a tightening housing market—are putting an estimated 13,000 new people out on the streets each month. Earlier this year, a report showed that LA, which has the second-largest homeless population in the country by far, already spends about $100 million a year addressing problems caused by its high rate of homelessness. The area has the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the US after New York City, partly due to LA’s warm climate.

So far, efforts to combat the crisis haven’t helped. For instance, LA’s special housing task force, assembled to tackle homelessness, is only building a fraction of the homes it needs, thanks in part to sky-high real estate prices.

The state of emergency gives the city council more hope of expediting some of its housing plans and other homeless initiatives.

A woman walks past homeless people's possessions on downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row, March 6, 2013. Los Angeles has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow police and city workers to seize or destroy property that homeless people leave unattended on sidewalks, saying Skid Row homeless encampments presented a public-health risk. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, some 11 people have died from tuberculosis since 2007, and of the 78 people infected, 60 were homeless. Picture taken March 6, 2013.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY HEALTH POVERTY) - RTR3EP9V
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
(R-L) Maria Tafoya, 63, Octavio Organista, 51, and Lloyd Evensen, 64, stand by their possessions on downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row, March 7, 2013. Los Angeles has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow police and city workers to seize or destroy property that homeless people leave unattended on sidewalks, saying Skid Row homeless encampments presented a public-health risk. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, some 11 people have died from tuberculosis since 2007, and of the 78 people infected, 60 were homeless.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY HEALTH POVERTY) - RTR3EPE1
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
A homeless man sits across the street from where the Skid Row Housing Trust's 102 pre-fabricated 350 square foot modular apartments are under construction downtown, becoming the first housing complex of its type for the homeless in the nation, in Los Angeles, California, December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY POVERTY) - RTR3BQ76
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
The homeless and others eat one of the thousands of early Thanksgiving meals served in downtown Los Angeles, California at the Los Angeles Mission November 25, 2009. Over 2,000 pounds of turkey was prepared for meals served at tables set up on skid row in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Fred Prouser    (UNITED STATES SOCIETY) - RTXR504
Reuters/Fred Prouser
Bessie Washington, 65, sits by the cooking area outside her tent at "tent city", a terminus for the homeless in Ontario, a suburb outside Los Angeles, California December 19, 2007. The noisy, dusty camp sprang up in July with 20 residents and now numbers 200 people, including several children, and is still growing as the region has been hit by the U.S. housing crisis. While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure, all agree that "tent city" is a symptom of the wider economic downturn.   TO MATCH STORY FEATURE USA-HOUSING/SOCIAL   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES) - RTX4X61
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
LAPD Sergeant Aloaf Walker looks to see if anyone is sleeping in a tent on downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row, March 7, 2013. Los Angeles has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow police and city workers to seize or destroy property that homeless people leave unattended on sidewalks, saying Skid Row homeless encampments presented a public-health risk. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, some 11 people have died from tuberculosis since 2007, and of the 78 people infected, 60 were homeless.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY HEALTH POVERTY) - RTR3EPD6
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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