Homelessness In Los Angeles And America Has Many Faces And Needs Less Of Them

Me in my old home.

By Dena Leichnitz

When I was kicked out of my home after twenty years, I felt like it was just me. As if no one else was going I through what I was. LA Times recently corrected that notion: L.A.’s crisis: High rents, low pay, homelessness rising and $2,000 doesn’t buy much. In fact as a person who has been looking for housing in Los Angeles since December, I can tell you, $2000 doesn’t even buy you a bedroom. If you check out apartments.com you will not see many that are below the $2000 mark.

So what is going on in LA? Well according to Steve Lopez’s article:  The median per capita income in L.A. County is less than $30,000, and for households it’s about $55,000. So for those who pay the median rental price of $1,995 for a one-bedroom apartment, or $2,400 for multiple bedrooms, there isn’t much left over.

The rents are rising everywhere and it is forcing people out of their homes.

In Steve Lopez’s article he details the struggle of one family who is living in their car because they cannot afford the rent in Los Angeles. He goes on to say they refer to themselves as the “lucky ones.” There are now roughly 58,000 versions of their story in greater Los Angeles. The homeless population increased 23% over last year, even though 14,000 people were helped off the streets. We’re going backward, in other words. And who knows how many more people are on the brink?

Women like Laurie have their own story to tell. The cycle of homelessness for her and her son, has been ongoing since 2010.  For her it started with a medical condition, which meant she was unable to work which meant she could not afford her rent. Laurie has been homeless both in Los Angeles and Illinois.  She stated:  “In Illinois there are homeless people but not the extent there is out here. California has better services than Illinois.” However, even with the better services homelessness has still risen 23%.

The homeless in America are getting old. 

There were 306,000 people over 50 living on the streets in 2014, the most recent data available, a 20 percent jump since 2007, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They now make up 31 percent of the nation’s homeless population.

This isn’t to say that Los Angeles hasn’t done anything to solve the homeless problem. From giving Skid Row its own neighborhood council so they have a direct line to the City Council to two propositions that were put on the ballot to help deal with homelessness, one by putting a moratorium on developers while trying to make room for more affordable housing (so they say)  to a proposition that raised the sales tax by 0.05 percent this past March.

Yet while the politicians try endlessly to get money to build new homes, they do nothing about correcting the housing problems that already exist, like lowering existing rents. There should be no way you can charge someone $1100 and have that not include a bedroom.

There should be no way you can charge two to three times the rest of the nation for similar properties and have that be legal.  If Los Angeles keeps charging the rents that it does, it will find it has charged itself into oblivion. The powerfully rich and movie stars can’t make up the entire population of people living in Los Angeles and have it be sustainable.

From young people, families, and the elderly, LA is fast becoming the capital of homelessness. Until the City Council does something to lower the rents in Los Angeles, it seems that the ending fate of Los Angeles will be – a ghost town.

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