By: Kimia Rategh
Within the last month, great changes have been made to Los Angeles’s approach to combating homelessness. However, this change has sparked questions as to whether this change was motivated by politics or a genuine concern for the homeless.
City Council members have banned 300 camping locations with the help of a new law passed in August. This movement has led to arguments regarding the fact that the ever increasing number of homeless camps has started to become a bigger threat to sanitation and safety, however many people fail to recognize that sufficient steps to truly remedy homelessness are not being implemented to justify this change. Without shelters or public homes to provide homeless individuals with a place to stay, banning camping locations makes it even more difficult to be homeless and does not alleviate the crisis.
This lack of effective and rational solutions for homelessness is what has led many to believe that this new ban has more to do with politics and city aesthetics than aiding the homeless or bettering safety. Additionally, Council Joe Buscaino who is running for mayor, proposed 161 locations for camp bans, a considerably larger number than his initial 11 suggested locations, further emphasizing the political nature of this new change.
There are a variety of proven methods of attacking homelessness, many of which are cost effective as well. Federal housing assistance programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers which are federally funded housing-based programs have proven to be incredibly effective. The vouchers make it so that low-income individuals can choose and rent market-rate housing. It also allows for a flexible subsidy that adjusts overtime with the individual’s income. These vouchers have had high success rates and have reduced family homelessness while also making sure that they maintain stably housed and out of the shelter system. For more information on proven homelessness solutions, check out the coalition for the homeless.
Unfortunately the truth this change has uncovered is not as surprising as one would think. Homelessness has been a fight we have been fighting for a very long time, and one we continue to lose. This has greatly been due to the fact that politicians care more about their political standing and the overall aesthetic of the areas over which they lead, than tackling the issue at hand. To truly achieve long term, effective change, we have to change our mindset: rather than playing into the politics and superficial aspects of homelessness like street aesthetics, we must begin to think about what changes the homeless need us to make and make that our priority and guiding process in our fight against homelessness.