By: Evelyn Silva Rosales
In the past decade the United State’s rate of homelessness has decreased by 10.3%, but in specific regions like Houston the homelessness rate has decreased by more than half. Though these statistics portray a hopeful future, Los Angeles rates continue to increase and in the last decade they have doubled.
Houston and Los Angeles are the second and fourth largest metropolitan cities in the country. Yet their individual approaches to tackle homelessness greatly differ and hence, we continue to see a huge disparity among their rates.
Throughout the pandemic, “Houston has had slightly higher poverty levels, while LA’s unemployment rate fell close to Houston’s.” Despite both cities’ effort to control homelessness rates, Houston’s approach has proven to be more effective.
One of the main concerns noted in LA’s effort, is the lack of focus on strategic clarity. Houston’s focus has been on “making homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring” while Los Angeles efforts target a divided approach at creating temporary shelters wanting to “end homelessness and wanting to make homelessness more comfortable.” Houston has provided pathways for the homeless population to be able to obtain permanent housing and social and health care. On the other hand, Los Angeles has implemented temporary residencies to help accommodate the homeless population. These divided efforts ultimately may lead to a slow progress for rates, along with the lack of consistent leadership.
Without an executive position with enough power, the responsibilities to attack homelessness are spread out and unlike in Houston, Los Angeles has no single lead homeless agency. With the re-election of mayors, it is difficult for local bureaucracies to organize resources or “mandate to assert leadership, set priorities, and take decisive action.” Implementing clarity and executive roles would lead to better progress and effective organization in Los Angeles. These approaches could ultimately help establish a path for permanent housing and we could see a decrease in homelessness rates like it has been seen in other cities such as Houston.