If you travel through the city of Los Angeles, and neighboring cities, such as Santa Monica, and travel through San Fernando Valley, you are going to encounter people living on the streets. Whether you go to MacArthur Park, Wilshire, and Fairfax, or Union Train station, you will see people under these unfortunate circumstances. One can actually go into the men’s rooms of department stores such as Target, and see men, washing up, brushing their teeth, and shaving. M.T.A. trains give the homeless a place to sit, ride around the city all day, or to the ocean and rest. Unlike most cities, the train system has no fare booths. Passengers are supposed to purchase metro cards, from machines and tap the card to board a train. Many people do not, taking the risk of being cited by law enforcement agents if caught. There are homeless camps under most freeway bridges where tents are erected for shelter and a little privacy. Many men and women find shelter at night on the steps of public buildings after business hours, or in doorways of small businesses when the businesses are closed. Skid row is the most concentrated area of homeless people.
How Did We Get Here This grim picture was not always there. There have always been homeless people, but the numbers have grown, through the decades from a hand full to numbers in mass proportions. In past decades there was really no such thing as affordable housing. Anybody with a job could afford, at the very least a room in a rooming house. During the decades of the sixties and seventies, furnished apartments were plentiful, and affordable, for anyone with a job, living in the Los Angeles area. In 1970, in Pasadena, one could actually get a furnished one-bedroom apartment, with utilities included for $72.50 a month. There was never an alarming increase in rent. Around 1977 this changed. A person who was paying $155 a month rent, for a one-bedroom apartment, would get a notice of a forty dollar increase. This was quite a dent in one’s salary. The rent for one room, in a rooming house, became too high, for the accommodations being offered. One room, sharing a bath. The large rent increases have continued through the decades. Many people are dependent on affordable housing, which there isn’t enough of. There are not enough shelters to accommodate the number of homeless people. Many homeless people have mental problems, with the need for a hospital rather than a shelter. Others have drug problems and do not want the restrictions, rules, and regulations of a shelter
In Los Angeles County there are an estimated 60,000 homeless. The numbers can only be estimated. Without a permanent home, it is difficult to get an accurate headcount.
What are the needs of the homeless? More and more, and then some, of everything. More shelters are needed. Compared to the thousands, with nowhere to live, there are just a handful of shelters. Shower trucks are needed. It is very difficult for people, on the street, to wash up. In the men’s restrooms, in department stores, such as Target, it is not uncommon to see men using the facilities to wash up, brush their teeth, and shave. Toilets articles, such as toothpaste, shaving cream, soap are the tools needed to wash up, or shower. Clothes are needed. These are hands-on items, which can be handed out by anybody to anyone living on the street. The Union Mission does a commendable job of providing food and shelter, for the hungry. More facilities like the Union Mission are needed. This grim situation is by no means exclusive to Los Angeles. It is an international status quo. By the numbers, Los Angeles falls in second, in the United States, behind New York City. For world travelers, accumulating frequent flyers miles, one will see the same situation in Mumbai, India, London, U.K., or walking along the streets of Paris. Sadly there are ver few places in the world where these circumstances do not exist. .
Needs for Getting Homeless into Homes
For the solution to this problem, one needs to go back to the root problem. A place to live. In addition to the obvious, the need for more jobs, and higher wages, there is a great need for more affordable housing, and federal housing based on a low income. Rental assistance programs are needed. Outreach programs are needed to get people with mental problems and drug problems off the street, and into the proper care facilities.