Monday, September 10, 2018

"Shelter Crisis"

Hello Everyone: 

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  Speculation continues over the true identity of Anonymous. Vice President Mike Pence continues to deny that he wrote the essay but it is anyone's guess as to who is The Mole. Yours Truly was teasing the youngest nephew that he was The Mole. Blogger always wonders what he is doing on the computer.  According to his mum, he plays bloody games. Hmm, maybe time to curtail his computer time. Alright, on to something far more constructive.  

One of the many intractable problems facing Los Angeles is homelessness.  L.A. Is home to 31,516 transient men and women, 75 percent of whom are not currently housed (; May 31, 2018; date accessed Sept. 10, 2018). The big question facing Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council is where to house the men and women, who make the sidewalks their home, on a temporary and permanent basis.  One solution supported by City Council president and 10th council district representative Herb Wesson is a temporary shelter in the heart of Koreatown, the heart of Mr. Wesson's constituency.

Koreatown is located in the Mid-Wilshire area, half way between old money L.A. Hancock Park and Downtown L.A.  This vibrant community home to many small businesses, restaurants, and bars catering to the Korean community.  K-Town, as it is known to the locals, is also home to a transient population.  In April, Mayor Garcetti declared a "shelter crisis" (Ibid; Apr. 17, 2018) and since, civic officials have identified potential location for approximately 1,500 new temporary shelter beds (Ibid; June 29, 2018). Most of the sites are fairly innocuous except for one: The site located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.  

The site was first proposed by the mayor and Mr. Wesson in May and located a block from the nearby subway station.  In recent years, the community has rapidly with 52 major projects in various stages of development (Ibid; Aug. 10, 2018). Concurrent with the development boom is a growing transient population (Ibid; May 31, 2017). Elijah Chilland reported in Curbed Los Angeles, "According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Council District 10, which includes Koreatown, was home to more than 1,500 homeless residents in 2017--a 36 percent increase over a year earlier (Ibid; May 2, 2018)."  Mayor Garcetti has proposed $20 million for the 2018-19 city budget, shared equally by all 15 council districts, "ideally allowing each to establish a 1,000-bed shelter (Ibid)."

As the transient population continues to rise, civic officials have launched a number programs aimed at housing the majority of L.A. County's 43,000 homeless people (Ibid; Apr. 11, 2018).  However, do not expect overnight success.  Be that as it may, what is it about the proposed Koreatown site that has community members up in arms?

The proposed shelter, on city-owned property, would be designated a temporary shelter.  This means that no more than 100 people could live there for no more than three years at a time (; June 4, 2018; date accessed Sept. 10, 2018). Some of you may be thinking: A proposed temporary shelter on city property, what is the problem?  Amy Powell writes, "Many Koreatown residents and businesses owners oppose the location, saying they are concerned about problems including the attracting of more homeless to the area that won't be able to fit in the shelter."  Community members further contend that they were not consulted about the choice of locations. 

Others have argued that "other neighborhoods of Los Angeles have a higher concentration of homeless and would better serve as a location for more shelter."  Still others have argued that it would be too close to school and residential areas. Some have accused Herb Wesson, who is African American, of protecting his own neighborhood. In the face of all the protests, Mr. Wesson began to look for alternative sites and promised more community outreach.  

This is how the system is supposed to work, to a point.  A June 30 editorial in the Los Angeles Times states,

...Communities should have input on decisions that will affect them, they should have their questions answered, and they should be encouraged to provide advice and assistance on tough public policy dilemmas on challenging issues like homelessness.... (; June 30, 2018; date accessed Sept. 10, 2018)

The Times posits,

But it is absolutely essential that community opportunity not be allowed to derail the plan to house homeless people in Wesson's district--or any of the other council districts in the city.  This is part of the mayor's program to build bridge housing--shelters... Where armory-style cots are replaced with real beds... (Ibid)

One thing that the editorial and Curbed Los Angeles fail to mention is the number of homeless that require short- and long-term medical and mental health treatment, in some cases supervised care.  It is no secret that there a number of transients who suffer from physical disabilities, serious mental health problems, and addiction-alcoholism.  This often makes it difficult to find suitable housing and proper care.  The result is men and women who desperately need care, wind up remaining unhoused, endangering themselves and the population at large. Second, some of the homeless are living on the streets because circumstances in their lives.  Unable to afford to remain in their homes, individuals and sometimes whole families wind up on the streets.  There needs to be programs that address their concerns.

The point of building more temporary shelters, across Los Angeles is to get people off the streets and out of encampments while they wait for more permanent shelter the city is trying to build with funds from 2016's Propositin HHH. The point is to build shelter in areas with high concentrations of transient encampments (like Koreatown) and do more outreach to get people off the streets and into shelters.

A small number of council members have introduced intiatives to begin studies on building bridge housing in their districts. The Los Angeles City Council members also need to remember, going forward, that no site will be perfect.  Meaning, in densely populated areas, like Koreatown, it may impossible to build temporary or permanent housing that is not near a school, library, residential or business area. Opposition is a good thing but it should stop these projects from moving forward if Los Angeles is to control and improve its homeless crisis.

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