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The homelessness crisis in the United States is raging and the authorities have no idea how to solve it. The latest evidence of this is the order of federal judge David O. Carter. Following a civil lawsuit filed in 2020 by citizens, business owners, and community leaders on Skid Row in Los Angeles, the judge ruled that the city must provide housing and shelter to all homeless people in the area.
Judge Carter gave authorities until October 18 to relocate all of the homeless. On the other hand, homeless women and children must be offered housing within 90 days.
However, Los Angeles County is not accepting the court ruling and has already appealed the decision. Skip Miller is the attorney representing the county and said that, in addition to appealing, he will also seek a stay of Judge Carter’s order for “judicial overreach.”
“Deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money and deliver services to people experiencing homelessness is a legislative, not a judicial, function,” Miller said in an emailed statement to NBC. “The County remains committed to its course of urgent action outside of court addressing this complex societal issue with the City and its other partners.”
Judge Carter wrote in the 110-page ruling that “Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn.”
The inability to resolve the Skid Row situation
The conflict between the judge and politicians in Los Angeles stems from the intention to solve a problem that has been developing for years. But to improve structural problems, you have to have an accurate diagnosis, and neither seems to have one.
The homeless crisis in Los Angeles, especially Skid Row, is a fact. Welfare policies have not worked to stem the homelessness crisis.
“The streets of skid row have long languished in an urban quagmire of trash, tents and neglect. Every day, shelters and organizations work to temporarily house people living on the streets, but every day more people fall into homelessness. On average, 207 people are rehoused daily in the county, but 227 people are pushed into homelessness, said Heidi Marston, executive director of the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, an agency created by the city and the county,” the report says.
How welfare policies produce homelessness
In the documentary Chaos by the Bay, The Truth About Homelessness in San Francisco — a case that can be perfectly extrapolated to the situation in Skid Row and all of Los Angeles County — it is perfectly explained how state subsidies and failed Democratic policies in California exacerbated the homelessness crisis.
But the main problem throughout California is homelessness and the high cost of living. A person can spend up to 50% of their salary on rent. Authorities have not been able to resolve this situation.
The housing shortage is so great that, while the City of Los Angeles relocates homeless people on a daily basis, the number of people becoming homeless exceeds that statistic.
“Los Angeles County finds housing for 130 people every day, yet 150 people fall into homelessness daily.”
The homelessness crisis is not just the problem of having large numbers of people on the street in poverty or marginalized situations. For example, the increase in homelessness is related to the increase in crime. In Los Angeles, for example, violent robberies and shootings have been increasing year after year. Only in 2018, they managed to reduce crime rates, but in 2020 the situation worsened again to the point that Mayor Eric Garcetti had to publicly declare that they are working to address the problem of insecurity.
Garcetti reported in February that homicides in 2020 alarmingly increased by 36.2%, and the number of shooting fatalities also registered a significant increase of 41.4% over 2019, a year where shooting fatalities were 253.
The crisis of homelessness and insecurity, unresolved by welfarist policies, is not only reflected in Los Angeles; other large cities in the country such as New York or Seattle face the same situation.
However, in other parts of the country, effective policies to end homelessness have been implemented.
“Helping the homeless: lessons from welfare reform”, is an article written by Peter Cove, an expert in housing and homelessness policing, and published in The Hill in 2019. In the text, there are lessons that authorities in every state should read to combat the growth of homelessness.
Cove explains that homelessness is growing across the country as public money earmarked to end homelessness continues to soar. Higher public spending and greater ineffectiveness.
Between 2017 and 2018, in the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cove explains, homelessness increased by 12% and 16%, respectively, and welfare policies had the opposite effect than expected.
There is also another reality: it is very difficult to combat homelessness without a state policy. However, the policies that have been implemented are, in fact, one of the underlying problems that are precisely responsible for the increase in the number of homeless people.
Housing firts, for example, is one of the least funded policies in the entire country, as opposed to temporary homes where much of the public money is allocated for homelessness.
“Research conducted in Denver, Boston, Seattle, and in Utah shows significant reductions in homelessness—up to 72 percent in some cases. In New York City, every person housed in the program saves taxpayers $10,000 per year. Yet, continued reliance on social services, transitional housing and shelters comprise the lion’s share of public dollars spent,” Cove explained in his column.
Eventually, without a policy in which the homeless are reintegrated into society — 75% of homeless people in the U.S. do not suffer from serious mental illness, so a good part can be reintegrated — the Housing first policy would also be insufficient, but, if another policy such as Work first is added to this policy, the situation can change drastically for the better.
That is the thesis that Cove argues: redirect public policies to jobs and permanent housing instead of spending on subsidies that do not help to end the problem.
Skid Row is more of the same
But in Skid Row, Los Angeles, policies are going the opposite way from what Cove proposes.
In addition to Judge Carter’s order, which seeks to relocate the homeless almost desperately, Mayor Garcetti’s idea isn’t much of a novelty either.
Garcetti will devote $1 billion to the homeless, disproportionately increasing public spending just as Los Angeles County runs a $750 million fiscal deficit.
Faced with the reality that people living on the streets are prone to mental health problems, drug addiction or even crime as a way of making a living, the authorities spout anti-creative, pre-implemented and ineffective policies. The numbers are alarming nationwide: there are some 568,000 homeless; 151,000 people live in California and more than 66,000 live in Los Angeles County.
When will alternative solutions be found to combat this problem?
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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