As of June 12, 2020, the L.A. County homeless population was 66,433, a 12.7% increase from 2019. Measure H, the L.A. County homeless initiative, is estimated to generate $355 million per year for 10 years. Prop HHH, a $1.2 billion bond, is projected to provide 10,000 housing units by 2026. If the rate of increase of L.A. County homeless is reduced by half of, by 2026 we will have 94,236, far exceeding the 10,000 units planned.
The county Public Health Department claims about one-third, or 22,122 members of the homeless population, have mental disorders. According to the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, four homeless people die every day in L.A. County. Except for very affluent areas, the county is infested with homeless encampments.
One of the county’s partners in the battle against homelessness is the St. Joseph Center. In 1976, two sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet along with a few volunteers began providing assistance out of a small storefront in Venice. In 1986 the sisters stepped down and the center became an incorporated nonprofit organization. Today, with a staff of nearly 300 and more than 400 volunteers, St. Joseph Center continues to help people get back on their feet. Financial information for 2019 shows St. Joseph Center had income of $39 million from grants and donations, and salaries and other compensation of $19.8 million.
While this is just one of the many organizations involved in California’s newest growth industry, it gives a sense of the amount of money, mostly grant money, being dolled out and yet the problem continues to explode. On May 11, faced with recall, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed $12 billion to house the homeless.
Clearly what is being done is not working. Huge amounts of taxpayer dollars are being directed toward this problem while the environment and quality of life continues to deteriorate in communities throughout the county. Good intentions in many cases are enabling the situation when what is needed is humane moral action.
First, we must care for those who, due to mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, are so impaired it is impossible for them to care for their own basic needs. For this to happen, changes must be made to the legal system, making it easier for courts or relatives to take conservatorship so care can be provided. Funds from the river of money flowing at this problem need to be directed to building and expanding facilities capable of providing inpatient and outpatient care.
Law enforcement and courts need to enforce existing laws and jail time must be part of the process. This may be the only and best chance to break the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse long enough to get treatment started. We have gone down the rabbit hole by defunding police departments, not prosecuting crimes and closing jails. A quick look at crime in our cities will tell you this is the wrong direction.
Taking more money through taxes from hard-working families will not work, as the numbers above indicate. If our state and local officials continue the present course of more funding, lack of mental health intervention and lack of law enforcement, then as voters we must realize they are stuck on stupid and must be replaced.
Thomas L. Cadman