State of emergency over increasing homeless population in LA

The city of Los Angeles is trying to respond to a rise in homelessness:

Los Angeles recently declared a state of emergency over the city’s growing homeless population – up 12% in two years. Residents of the city’s main homeless encampment say a mix of drugs and rising rents are driving the problem…

At the last count there were 44,359 homeless people in Los Angeles County and 25,686 in the city itself, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), an agency set up in 1993 to find a solution to the problem…

“Affordable housing in LA is almost non-existent,” says Mr Smith who points to recent data that suggests that the average two-bedroom unit in the city now costs more than $2,600 (£1,700) per month to rent…

“We have become a city of shanties,” says Mr Bonin, noting that homelessness has not only increased by “a whopping 12%” over the past two years but is now spreading out across the city…

Declaring a state of emergency could make it easier to find homes for residents by easing some housing restrictions and fast-tracking permits for more affordable housing.

This is a consistent issue in many American cities though few present the contrast of a glittering city – skyline, money, Hollywood, attractive weather, beaches – quite like Los Angeles. Imagine the view from afar: the same place that is home to Hollywood can be so close to skid row?

The issues here seem to be one that tend to come up in discussions of homelessness: a lack of positive ways to deal with drug use and a lack of transitional or permanent housing. It is interesting to think how the particular issue of homelessness intersects with these two other issues. Does it take an increase in homelessness for people to seriously think about affordable housing in the Los Angeles region? And what exactly does it take for a city to declare a state of emergency in this area (a certain percent increase, a total number of homeless, a certain number of other residents irritated or inconvenienced)?

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