One of the biggest problems, as I see it, in my new home in Los Angeles is the homeless problem. On the surface, homelessness doesn’t seem to be nearly the problem that it is in east coast cities like New York City. However homelessness in Los Angeles is a lot more covert, a lot more organized, and a lot more troubling both as a resident and as someone who cares about human beings.
Homelessness in Los Angeles seems to be allowed to continue for a few key reasons:
1) Space: Los Angeles is huge! Literally Los Angeles county stretches out for hundreds of square miles. This fact makes the homelessness problem in Los Angeles seem that much less of an issue indeed. People are spread out in a variety of places and they don’t “see” the homeless which troll around their neighborhoods and schools overnight when these homeless people have the shopping centers, grocery stores, coffee shops, indoor malls, and parking complexes to loiter and sleep in during the daytime.
2) Services: Just as there is so much space and so many people in Los Angles, there are just as many services. Even though they all aspire to unite under the umbrella “social services group” to help the homeless, the fact is that, in being so divergent, they prop up the epidemic of homelessness and allow it to continue, no closer to resolution.
3) Ingenuity: The homeless in New York City are aggressive, angry, dirty, and altogether unpleasant. However in the sun and sand of Los Angeles, the homeless are largely clean and pleasant though they are no less aggressive. This makes the mask of homelessness in Los Angeles that much more a blurry line. The unkempt guy you’re walking behind on the street could be a grunge rocker millionaire, college kid, or homeless man.
4) Neighborhoods Flow Together: The problem of homelessness passes back and forth across your lawn in Los Angele every day. Unless you live in one of the exclusive “gated communities” homelessness effects you. There are homeless in the wonderful beach towns, the industrial epicenters, and everywhere in between. I have seen homeless pushing shopping carts around the twists and turns (and impressively expensive housing) on Mulholland Drive. I have seen the homeless trough through my own trash; even as I stand there! The homeless in Los Angeles have also taken great pains to make their existence sustainable. There is one homeless person I know of who has taken a piece of throw rug and set up a makeshift bed between one end of a Starbucks parking lot and the adjoining end of someone’s house! He actually leans up against the house and sleeps there! I know this is tenable because I’ve seen him there for weeks on end.
Is there an easy solution? You know there’s not. with folks being put up then evicted from public housing, jobs shrinking, and opportunities vanishing, the homelessness issue in Los Angles doesn’t seem any closer to a solution. We’ll just have to wait and see where the future road takes us.