Downtown Magnets High School

Opinion: L.A.’s homeless population needs support now

Echo Park Lake reopened May 26, after homeless people were forced out in late March.

Authorities fenced off Echo Park Lake and closed it to the public March 24, forcing out people who resided in a homeless encampment, according to L.A. Mag. Hundreds of supporters of the unhoused residents protested and hundreds of LAPD forces showed up.
Protestors were arrested and journalists were detained, according to the L.A. Times.

The L.A. Times reported on March 31, “Officers were recorded on video using weapons in ways that appeared to violate department policies.”

The Echo Park Lake homeless encampment was described by the Times as “commune-like.”

“As time went on, conditions at the park became increasingly unsafe for everyone — park visitors and park dwellers,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said in a press release supporting the park’s reopening, according to the Times.

People who were living there in Echo Park were forced out and are now trying to find places to stay, some have to wait in long lines just for a night at a shelter, and most are unlucky.

California’s governor needs to do something about our homeless situation. First of all, because homeless people often suffer from mental illnesses and deserve access to treatment. There is also a lot of empty building space that could be easily turned into homes to combat this problem which is steadily rising.

We need to stop driving by homeless tents, homeless people, and homeless shelters without just thinking to ourselves “that’s so depressing.” California’s homeless population has drastically increased and it is heartbreaking.

These people have no homes, no showers, often have no families, and are struggling to survive without reliable access to food and water. Doesn’t it break your heart driving by and not doing anything about it? I think it’s time we do something!

California had an estimated 161,548 people experiencing homelessness on any given day as of January 2020, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If we continue to ignore this issue, the number will only increase more and they will keep suffering. It’s time for a change.

The number of the homeless population has drastically increased in California, and most of us just drive by unhoused people and go along with our day.

A report by Porch in December 2020 found that California has the third-largest homeless population in the United States.

We pass by fast food restaurants and see homeless people asking for money, what do we do? I don’t think many people have a mindset of putting themselves in their shoes and feeling empathy. More so, I would hope they do and at least give them a dollar or two. Even better, maybe even a meal! But not everyone thinks this way.

Before the impact of the pandemic, Los Angeles County saw a 13% jump in the homeless population in a year. The coronavirus has worsened the situation for unhoused people and it has impacted the employment of millions all through California, especially families, since they have more people to feed and children to look out for.

How do people even become homeless in the first place? Some of the main reasons people become homeless are they can’t afford housing, are unemployed, suffer from poverty, they may experience mental illness and they lack access to necessary services.

One of the biggest issues concerning homelessness is how there isn’t enough resources to help people who use substances.

A 2019 CalMatters article states, “Many have also blamed California’s conservatorship laws for making it too difficult to compel treatment for people with mental illness or drug addiction living on the street.”

Many unhoused people suffer from a variety of disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders.

I don’t think it should be this difficult for unhoused people to get help for their addictions and mental illnesses, especially because of their living situations.

So what are we doing as a community to help this situation?

Most of the time when someone sees a homeless person on the street they avoid making eye contact, ignore them when they speak to us, and/or act uncomfortable when there is any type of interaction.

This way of being is very despairing because it seems as if there is no hope for change. Instead of avoiding them, maybe offer water or even a meal if possible. Water bottles are no more than $2, and a meal from a fast food restaurant is no more than $6.

Even a simple “Hello, how’s your day going?” can go a long way.

Ana Velouise of the Downtown Women’s Center told Curbed L.A. in 2019, “We’re always in need of clean socks and underwear, sleeping bags, and travel-sized toiletries.”

There are also other ways of helping this situation, for instance if you are about to throw away old blankets, pillows, towels, and/or clothes, save them and drive by wherever you normally see people who are unhoused and offer it to them.

A little can really go a long way. There are also many old buildings that can be turned into shelters or mental health centers. A donation to a GoFundMe to help people get the necessities for the shelter can be possible with everyone’s help as well! Social media is a great way to spread the word to people about a GoFundMe and raise the money.

One of the main reasons why it’s so hard to build a homeless shelter in LA is because of the price.

In September 2020, the L.A. Times reported, “The average cost of building a single unit of housing for the homeless in Los Angeles has risen to $531,000, according to an audit from the city controller, who recommends that L.A. rehab motels and open dormitory-style buildings to save money and get people off the streets quickly.”

Since the price has risen, it makes it more difficult to help people who are unhoused and living on the streets. The government needs to prioritize this situation and do something about it.

The federal government spent more than $1.7 billion a year to maintain 770,000 empty buildings as of 2016, according to the Times.

Now this information is very infuriating. The money they hold on these buildings could be donated to homeless shelters and organizations. The old buildings could also be made into health facilities for unhoused people who need counseling, or shelters that provide beds, bathrooms, food, etc.

Why does the government have the need to hold buildings that aren’t even being used? The government misspends a huge amount of their money that should be spent on other things. This angers me because not only is the government holding down this much money on properties that aren’t being used, they have people taking money from their own pockets to help the community.

The money spent to aid unhoused people shouldn’t be coming from only the people in our community who work hard for their money, it should be coming from our government.

Given these realistic points I believe that the population of people who are unhoused is growing by the day. We have normalized driving by people who are living on the street. Is that normal? Does it not break your heart? I believe the California governor needs to do something about our homeless situation, and most importantly, prioritize it.

There is plenty of empty building space that could be turned into organizations, homes for unhoused people, mental health centers, treatment programs, etc. This problem is steadily rising and our community also needs to come together and help solve this issue step by step.

It’s 2021 and its time for a long awaited change.