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.
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:
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:
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:
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