By: Nyoko Brown
As of 2020, The Los Angeles Times reported that Black people composed 34% of the county’s homeless population (Lopez, 2020). This is an especially striking detail, seeing that Black people in Los Angeles only make up 7.9% of the entire population (Lopez, 2020). The over representation of Black people in homelessness is often overlooked. This factor, with the right attention, could significantly impact efforts against the homelessness crisis.
Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times wrote of their time visiting a friend on skid row and first noted their observation of the overwhelming police presence. He then recalls seeing that about 3 quarters of the people inhabiting skid row were Black. Lopez summarizes skid row as “an outdoor museum of social and economic failure, with stark results on full display.” This comment on the glaring disparities skid row depicts leads to a larger conversation about why Black people are over represented in the homeless population of Los Angeles. When looking at the demographics of America’s entire homeless population, it becomes clear that Black people are systematically subjected to homeless countrywide.
Many studies have attempted to analyze why people experience homelessness, but race-neutral research is evidently dismissive and limited. One study that sought to fill this gap in knowledge found that in the United States, non-Hispanic Blacks made up 16.8%, Hispanics of any race made up 8.1%, and non-Hispanic whites made up 4.8% of homeless individuals. However, when the results from this study were controlled for covariates like education, veteran status, and geographic region, it was found that the gap between Blacks and whites was significant, but the gap between Hispanics and whites was not. All this to say, it is apparent that anti-Blackness in America and homelessness are connected. What was notable in the Fusaro et al. article was the look into lifetime prevalence of homelessness in Americans. They found that 6.2% of baby boomers at the time of the study experienced at least one episode of homelessness. They pointed out episodic homelessness to expose limitations to certain methods for accounting for the severity of homelessness, as others are done to look only at one point in time and at people who are homeless specifically at the time of data collection. They found that even over a lifetime prevalence of homeless, non-Hispanic Blacks were still the most likely to have experienced at least one episode of homelessness.
Jacqueline Waggoner of LAHSA was quoted in Steve Lopez’s article advocating for policymaking with “racial equity” in mind rather than “race neutrality” regardless of the sensitivity of the economy following the pandemic. The article also noted that Black Americans have endured institutionalized racism to the extent that homelessness can be an expected result. Clearly, policing will not be the solution to
houselessness. Rather, it is time to invest in rehabilitating, educating, and housing this community.