How many times a day do you drive by a homeless person on the street and offer anything to them? Better yet, how many times a day do you drive by a homeless person, lock your doors, roll up your windows and look the other way as if they are animals?
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 580,466 people were experiencing homelessness in America during January 2020. In our society, homeless people are seen as the “untouchables” where they aren’t classified as human beings. Every day people avoid any type of interaction with a homeless person because, I was told while growing up, “they carry disease,” or “they are some drug addict, so stay away from them.” It is heartbreaking that we have developed a societal norm to ignore or denounce the homeless as if they had any other option than to beg from us. Consequently, this mindset has sprouted into the minds of L.A. lawmakers and inspired them to pass L.A. Municipal Code 41.18.
Somehow, L.A. lawmakers passed an ordinance by failing to look at the public problem from a holistic point of view: Homeless people are human beings who have the same basic rights that you and I have.
Similarly but to a lesser degree, the city of Santa Clarita had a homeless population of 256 people during January 2020. Since the beginning of 2021, Santa Clarita’s City Council has been taking action to help the homeless population by actively working through the Santa Clarita Community Task Force on Homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic truly exacerbated the homeless population, but there have been moves toward building affordable housing and donations through Family Promise of SCV, a nonprofit organization and homeless service provider. As someone who has volunteered for the homeless throughout high school, I am very happy to see that the city of Santa Clarita is approaching the homeless problem in a positive way rather than pushing them off the streets like the city of L.A.
To Santa Clarita’s City Council, adopting laws like L.A.’s Municipal Code 41.18 would hurt the city since there are better solutions the city provides or there are other solutions that the city can provide. To go into more detail, the homeless population represents a large humanitarian problem in our nation. Approaching this public problem without looking at why someone is homeless or how our community could help the homeless would be very sadistic.
Some may argue that the homeless need to be cleared out since they are destroying land and creating hazards for the locals. Many homeless encampments in Santa Clarita are located in fire-prone areas since the city contains many portions of open land in the mountains and hiking trails. Many see the removal of homeless encampments as feasible because the homeless put themselves and others at risk by lighting fires or cooking on dry, fire-prone land. However, any other intent to kick out the homeless from their encampments without providing them a place to stay is inhumane.
There are many services and programs that help the locals of Santa Clarita get involved to combat homelessness. Bio-One of Santa Clarita helps the city and property owners clean up trash and hazards the homeless leave behind. Programs like Bridge to Home enable the homeless to receive housing. The mission for Santa Clarita’s City Council should continue to be a community-wide effort in helping the homeless rather than passing legislation that furthers our negative outlook on our homeless problem in our society. There will always be the opportunity for volunteers in Santa Clarita to help in homeless shelters, food banks, or homeless housing programs.
The next step should be to help the homeless restart their lives after they move into homeless housing. Educators, lawmakers and everyday citizens should get involved in combating homelessness. Laws like LA’s Municipal Code 41.38 create a division between the homeless and the working class, and they ultimately contribute to the negative outlook on homelessness.