Homelessness is a problem that faces cities across the country, and it has a significant drain on local communities. Eric Johnson with Reuters reports that in 2015, more than 500,000 people were homeless in America. The report also stated that a quarter of those within that number were children. California’s homeless problem is nothing new for cities like Los Angeles and San Diego. Skid row is a dedicated 54 block region of the Los Angeles metropolitan area that hosts an estimated 2,521 homeless individuals. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimates an average of 28,000 people are homeless on any given night in the city of Los Angeles.
I’ve had the opportunity to spend 2 nights each year, sleeping above the streets of skid row at the Union Rescue Mission. I’ve witnessed a single mom with her two daughters living in a box, as they try to sleep while a man shoots up heroin across the street. I’ve had a woman scream at me, while she suffered from severe mental illness, and I’ve cleaned up streets littered with trash, feces, and syringes. I’ve seen homelessness without a filter, and its a problem that is being ignored by our local governments and elected officials. Peter Jamison with the LA Times reports that Mayor Eric Garecetti’s $8.76 billion dollar budget was approved with an additional $138 million on homeless improvement initiatives and services. While this initiative has housing solutions, it won’t be able to entirely end homelessness in any way. City governments have been turning to band-aid policies to solve homelessness as its cost on taxpayers becomes larger than life.
San Diego has recently sparked controversy by taking an unprecedented stand against homeless outreach programs. According to a new report by CityBeat, the San Diego Police Department is threatening a nonprofit for feeding homeless residents. Pastor James Merino, the Executive Director of the locally based “Dream Center”, was told that ‘the hammer would be brought down’ on his organization for feeding homeless during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 10th.
Whether it’s Los Angeles or San Diego, we need to get smart about dealing with the homeless. Treating people like human waste, issuing band-aid policies, and choosing to ignore a problem will only make things worse. Conservatives and Progressives in California should get behind common sense city-specific solutions to homelessness. Preventing feeding programs and passing band-aid budget resolutions are only pushing this problem under the carpet.