My Thoughts On The Current Homeless Crisis – And What I Think Is The Root Cause

Living in Los Angeles, I’ve seen a LOT of this. Photo courtesy of  yournewswire.com

 

MY TAKE ON WHAT IS ARGUABLY AMERICA’S BIGGEST ISSUE

 

I’ve never seen it this bad – and I’ve lived in the greater Los Angeles area, widely considered the homeless capital of these United States, for over forty years.

I vividly remember Santa Monica, where I lived for 22 years, having an influx of homeless people, or “Transients”, as they were called, during my formative years in the 1980s and beyond.

This was especially the case in Palisades Park, located on the bluffs overlooking the ocean, where I remember it being Skid Row West with all of the tents put up there.

I would get asked variations of “Spare some change?” quite a bit at Third Street Promenade in particular, the outdoor shopping mall just a few blocks from Palisades Park where I worked at a luggage store during the early 1990s and spent various amounts of time outside of that.

The issue had reached a point where dolphin statues with slots where you can deposit change – which would go to programs and services to help the homeless – were put up all over that promenade.

I made it a point to put in at least a dollar at least once a visit, sometimes I put in five dollars, because by doing so I knew my money would be guaranteed to, as a public service announcement that was shown in the movie theaters stated, “Make your change help, not hurt.”

I reckon I put in roughly $150 in those dolphin statues during those years.

Anyhow…

As I said, I never thought the homeless situation would be worse that what I saw in Santa Monica in the 80s and 90s – until the past few years as pretty much everywhere I go in L.A. now, I see rows of tents and RVs, folks lying on bus benches, sidewalks, and anywhere else they can, villages of homeless people (called “Hoovervilles” after then-President Herbert Hoover during the Depression in the 1930s) along rivers, and simply more of the unfortunate, to the tune of nearly 60,000 in Los Angeles County alone.

As opposed to when I first moved to my current town of Culver City twenty years ago, I’ve even seen an influx of the homeless there, particularly in the library down the street from my house, where I’ve seen a couple of tents parked against a side wall next to Ballona Creek.

And of course I’ve not only donated money to organizations like the Salvation Army, I’ve (especially lately) bought food for those who asked me for spare change, because then I would know that my charity would do some good, rather than wonder if the change I gave to them would be spent on drugs, alcohol and/or cigarettes.

This largesse was mentioned in a piece I did on this blog almost exactly a year ago, which described what worked best for me as far as helping panhandlers; here’s the link to that post:

 

http://www.hartlandchronicles.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/the-best-way-for-me-to-help-panhandlers-and-the-homeless

 

 

A very common sight in the greater Los Angeles area. Photo courtesy of scpr.org

 

 

After watching news reports and reading multiple-part series on the homeless, notably in the Los Angeles Times; how they got that way and the struggles that they constantly endure, I came to this conclusion at what I feel is the heart and root of this terrible issue.

I’m convinced that it doesn’t lie only at the feet of the homeless person him/herself and the choices they make, as contrary to popular opinion most people without a permanent roof are not mentally ill – only 30% are – or addicted to drugs or booze.

No, I’m convinced that the root of the homeless problem not only in the Los Angeles area, not only in America, but throughout the world,

Lies in one concept:

HEARTLESSNESS

I see the heartlessness in the comments of articles I read regarding these poor folks, people stating how “It’s all their fault” and how “They need to just try harder” and – a very common response – to simply “Get a job!”

I really see the heartlessness in the folks living along the Santa Ana River in Orange County who, in the grand tradition of “Not In My Back Yard”, had officials remove a miles-long homeless village along a bike path.

And I especially see the heartlessness in one particular group:

LANDLORDS.

Specifically those landlords who for no apparent reason jack up the rents on apartments to what is far beyond what their tenants, who often have families, can pay, thus throwing them out on the street while (I imagine) they cackle like some villain in a movie.

Not to mention those who buy apartment buildings, evict all the tenants in one fell swoop – some of them who have lived in those flats for years and years –  and convert them into either luxury apartments or condominiums where they can charge as much as $10,000 a month, as someone recently told me a place in Santa Monica was going for.

I’ve read that these landlords have said that they have their rents at these outrageous levels because it’s at market value and they need to make a living, but you know what?

I truly feel that the mission of a landlord or an apartment building owner is to provide decent housing at prices that the average, hard-working family can afford without sacrificing their ability to pay for food and bills, as it’s at times the case – NOT to strictly make SO much money that they live in affluent areas like Beverly Hills or Bel-Air while the people who live in their buildings suffer in anxiety at best and are forced out onto the street at worst.

It’s the greedy heartlessness of too many landlords and others in power that I feel is the main root for the suffering that the poor and the homeless are going through more than ever.

I know that there will be plenty of people who will vehemently disagree with me, who will call me a communist and a socialist among other derisive names.

But I like to say this in summing up…

Back in the 90s, someone I knew said this to me as we spotted a homeless person:

“The only difference between us and him is two paychecks.”

Perhaps if everyone, particularly the heartless, kept that in mind, we would actually make some real progress in not seeing tent cities and people lying anywhere they can find, panhandling for change, anymore.

These are my opinions and I’m sticking to them.

 

 

I’ve seen plenty of this, too. Photo courtesy of spiritofvenice.wordpress.com

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SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA: The Three Things I Like Best About That City

My favorite image of the town I grew up in and lived for 22 years….

 

Everybody has a hometown.

Technically, I have two…

Riverside, CA, fifty miles east of Los Angeles, where I was born, spent the first nine years of my life, and have idyllic memories of as I lived with loving grandparents in a rural community outside of that city.

The other place I consider my hometown?

Santa Monica, CA, fifteen miles west of downtown Los Angeles, a town famous for its beach and pier.

It’s in Santa Monica where I lived for 22 and a half years, eighteen in one house.

It’s in Santa Monica where I spent my pubescence, adolescence, and young adulthood.

And it’s in Santa Monica where I did the milestone/rites of passage; play little league,  get my first  (unrequited) crushes on girls,  graduate high school, work at my first jobs, things like that.

Though it’s approaching twenty years since I lived there, moving to Culver City at the end of 1998, there are three things about that seaside town that provide fond memories.

I won’t waste any time with listing those three things:

 

1.  THE AFTERNOON SEA BREEZES

Being that it borders the Pacific Ocean (or technically, Santa Monica Bay), Santa Monicans have been blessed with what I call God’s air conditioning, as starting at roughly 3:00 p.m. winds from the ocean cool that city – and neighboring ones like Venice, Pacific Palisades, and Marina Del Rey – and make it very desirable while starting at between five to ten miles inland the temperature significantly rises.

On hot days, that means that while people in Santa Monica and other beach cities are reveling in those cool breezes, folks living inland are suffering.

Why else does the beach in Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu, and other places get crowded with wall-to-wall people during heat waves?

 

 

A VERY nice view of the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, and Point Dume at sunset. Photo courtesy of shuttlestock.com

 

2. THE VIEW OF MALIBU AND THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS ON A CLEAR DAY

On a clear day, particularly after it rains, I always loved looking north and viewing the Santa Monica Mountains and various places like Pacific Palisades, Malibu, and Point Dume.

The views of those area is especially spectacular from the Santa Monica Pier, which I took some time to do on Christmas morning in 1998, just a few days before I moved away as I wanted to set my eyes on that incredible view one last time.

I unfortunately haven’t been able to see that sight due to the pier being crowded with tourists and life’s obligations in general, but rest assured that view is something about Santa Monica that I’ve always appreciated.

 

 

My all-time favorite place to eat – sorry that the picture is so small! Photo courtesy of camposfamousburritos.com

 

3. CAMPOS FAMOUS BURRITOS, ON 20TH STREET AND PICO BOULEVARD

There has been no other place where I’ve preferred to eat in my lifetime.

Since age eight, I have been enjoying the tacos, nachos, and burritos from what was originally called Las Palmas until it was renamed Campos around the late 1970s.

Having lived two blocks from Campos for 18 years, I have had a long history with that place…

I remember taking field trips with my junior high school Spanish class to that Mexican eatery for lunch, taking dares to drink the hot green salsa.

Though I was a bit too much of a goody-goody to do so, many of my friends have ditched school to enjoy Campos food.

I can recall taking dates there during my early 20’s.

And my latest enjoyable memory of Campos?

Going there on my 50th birthday to buy avocado burritos, which incredibly enough I had never tried as I always preferred ground beef tacos in my youth and chicken tacos and burritos in later years.

I don’t have to tell you the waves of nostalgia that passed through me that day.

In fact, if someone asked me what my number one memory of living in Santa Monica is, Campos would be it.

I thank God that there’s a branch about a block and a half from where I live in Culver City; their tacos was the first meal I had upon moving there.

I’m quite proud and blessed that I’ve been eating and enjoying Campos food for over forty years, and will continue to.

 

So there they are – my three fondest memories of my twenty-two and a half years in Santa Monica.

Hopefully these descriptions make anyone from that town who may be reading this smile.

 

 

The inside of the Original Campos on 20th & Pico in Santa Monica, which is so successful there are several branches all over Los Angeles’ Westside. Photo courtesy of tripadvasor.com