Just driving around Santa Clarita on any warm day reveals the possibility you will observe our local homeless population. And our homeless population is and will be growing.
I disagree as to how Los Angeles County is attempting to manage the explosive growth of our homeless citizens, but the fact is that, unless there are changes made, this crisis is here to stay.
Homelessness is generally defined as a person living in a temporary encampment, emergency shelter, in a vehicle or in sponsored transitional housing. About a third are “sheltered,” i.e. with some sort of housing or using a mobile home as a domicile. The other approximately two-thirds are classified as “unsheltered.”
Nationwide, current estimates are that 565,000 persons are homeless. Last year the annual Los Angeles County count reported that 58,000, about 10 percent of the nation’s homeless, are here among us. In the Los Angeles, the homeless count is about 34,000. Last year’s count estimated 331 persons in Santa Clarita are homeless.
We are paying a ton of money right now to address this crisis, but I am sorry to say that we are ignoring the truth.
Measure H is allocating $355 million to emergency shelters and homeless treatment programs. Measure HHH is funding $1.2 billion with local taxpayer money for creating 10,000 or more free housing units to get people into shelter.
But getting people into “shelter,” i.e. free government sponsored housing, does not necessarily cure the causes as to why folks are living on the street, in a disabled mobile home, or in a riverbed.
There seems to be four different influences going on.
One small group includes those who bolted from home because of imminent partner danger. They are classified as needing emergency shelter due to domestic violence. I would not consider these survivors as homeless—rather they need our care and protection while transition to safer conditions.
The next group is economically impacted and can’t afford a place right now but are of sound mind, are not chemically dependent, and are able to earn an honest income. These folks I consider as the true homeless and are deserving of our support and assistance.
It is estimated that about 30 percent of the homeless population are physically or mentally impaired. It is unlikely that these folks are able to sustain a sufficient income to afford housing without aid. While mental illness and disabilities certainly lead to a homeless environment, funds through Proposition H and HHH appear to be designed to apply the proper resources and strategies to assist these folks.
The remaining approximately 70 percent of the homeless population are comprised of drug addicts and alcoholics. It appears that L.A. County tries to bury this fact by using other descriptors first, if possible, and chemical dependency only as a final category. They report only 25 percent of L.A. homeless are in this group—what a lie.
The great deception about homelessness is that about two out of three are chemically dependent. While I acknowledge that chemical dependency is often both a medical and an emotional condition, these folks should not be associated with those homeless due to economic issues.
To be clear, this 70 percent are chemically dependent: the real issue is we have a drug and alcohol use problem, not a homelessness problem.
Most large homeless camps in L.A. County are littered with thousands of drug needles. Drugs are often paid for by leveraging EBT cards, welfare subsidies and other government funds. Skid row in L.A. has a well-known community of drug dealers that provide illegal substances to the thousands as LAPD idly watches.
When a drug addict is asked to come in out of the cold, the excuse given is often “I don’t want to follow their rules.” This is addict code for “I prefer using drugs over getting care.”
I believe government subsidies, free needles, failure to address illegal drug sales and ignoring the addiction issue perpetuates, not mitigates this, our greatest social challenge.
Money is being sucked away from the truly needy—the victims of domestic violence, the economically challenged, those with mental illness and those physically impaired.
These populations are innocent and deserve care.
There are about 40,000 drug addicts and alcoholics living on the streets in L.A. County. This group of homeless are not helpless. This group choses dependency over shelter.
So long as addiction is perpetuated via government complicity, funded by taxpayers, and so long as their identities are incorrectly integrated with the innocent, this crisis will not be resolved.
Jonathan Kraut directs private investigations and private security firms and is a published author, Democratic Party activist and SCV Interfaith Council member. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.