Homelessness in Los Angeles - Bojana Vukojicic
HOMELESSNESS IN LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles is famous for its population diversity and multiethnicity. It almost sounds hard to believe, but there are people from 140 countries living in Los Angeles, calling it home. When you turn that diversity to numbers, it comes down to almost 19 million individuals living in 5 counties of Los Angeles! The first nation in the USA to reach 10 million residents is actually Los Angeles County. On the other hand, rapid population growth and high economic standard also have a negative side.
An old saying from Marcus Valerius Martial says:
“A man who lives everywhere lives nowhere.”
Unfortunately, there are 26% chronically homeless people in Los Angeles that can relate to this sentence. Did you, however, know that 65% of them are homeless more than 10 or even 20 years? Or that three -quarters of Los Angeles homeless people live outdoors, in camps and vehicles? What discourages, even more, is the fact that the real number of the homeless is much greater than shown in statistical data.
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), in the 2016/2017 the most frequent problems causing this issues were:
• Unemployment and other financial issues (40%),
• Conflicts with family/household (19%),
• Alcohol/Drug abuse (17%),
• Separation, Divorce etc. (16%),
• Mental Health Issues (13%).
Unfortunately, the list continues, as homelessness produces other difficulties – various types of violence, such as domestic or sexual, gender orientation, recent immigration. As you can see, reasons are multiple, and they all represent major social difficulty. Due to a variety of these conditions, homelessness can strike people from any age, race or gender.
Loss of housing can seriously affect one’s functioning as a full member of society. When homeless, an individual risks to obtain proper education, health care, and economic sureness. If you have in mind all these issues, it quite clear that a homeless person can't get out of this vicious circle easily.
WHAT STATISTICS SHOWS?
Most recent LAHSA statistics show that among beyond 50 000 unsheltered people the most endangered are the ones older than 24. Most of them are African/Black (34%), Latin American (33%), or with serious mental illness (27%).
If you look at the statistical data from the past few years, it appears that the number of homeless people is decreasing. In reality, things are far more complex.
On the official list of cities with the highest homeless population in the world, Los Angeles is ranked 4th, with 58 000 homeless people. However, the real number of the homeless is estimated to be close to 150 000. That means that Los Angeles ranks much higher than, for example, Mumbai, the city with 18.41 million individuals! Most endangered are veterans and young men.
WHERE HOMELESS PEOPLE LIVE?
It’s clear that these people don’t have a first stable point to make their living standard better – a permanent home. It all comes down to two possibilities. The first one being a shelter provided from the local community, and the second one, more problematic and numerous type of dwelling – the streets. A Homeless person can be seen in different city locations:
• Sidewalks or Alleys (34%),
• Tents and Makeshift shelters (24%),
• Vehicles (14%),
• Parks, Beaches, Riverbeds,
• Other unsheltered location.
The percentage of homeless people obliged to live in the streets is quite big, isn’t it? Even though there are shelters, we can’t abandon the fact that these places are far away from ultimate, or best solution. These individuals live in everyday risk of losing important documents, medications, while in search for enough food and warm shelter. Sadly, their camps are oftentimes being removed by city sweeps, which is why their basic existence becomes uncertain.
WHAT IS THE WORSE SCENARIO?
If the long-term solution is not implemented, the situation could worsen to the irreparable point. It is not even unlikely to see these unfortunate people being treated like criminals, just because they are at the margin of society. When all these horrendous conditions conjoin, it gets unavoidable to hear that hundreds of homeless die, even though that could be prevented. Some of them finish being mentioned in the news, prompting people to more loudly emphasize that this issue should get its solution at once. But, until today, nothing like that has occurred.
THE ANSWER FOR THE PROBLEM?
Being a Los Angeles citizen, among other things, means being considerate to the ones who live among you and have any kind of adversity. Those who can, should go one step further and offer help and solution. When it comes to homeless people, their answer is clear: they only long for worm home, in order to recover and regain deserved place in this city and society.
Destinato, as the nonprofit organization, desires exactly that. We are aware that the problem can’t be solved if we don’t work together and rejoin our forces. Our wish is to offer a long-term strategy that can bring back the homeless from the streets. In that way, we don’t help the homeless for a day, or two. We give them hope and help them regain their old life on their own.
The key point of our concept is building utopian smart tech villages. It sounds complicated, but it actually really manageable. Our villages will become local edification cites, with open access during the day for commerce, shops, and pop-up cafes run by young entrepreneurs. Our villages will host weekly free substance-free community events, with access to food trucks, cafes, and other local homeless startups and businesses.
But, do you know what’s best about our villages? We don’t need some exclusive location – we can place our wooden villages on any patch of remnant land. Just picture an abandoned car park being turned into a beautiful wooden home village, or as we call it SERAI, from the Persian word Caravanserai.
This beautiful housing, based on an ethical approach, will help children, women, and families. Until now, homeless children could spend three days in a shelter and then had to live. We offer something entirely opposite – by incentivizing the housing of homeless people in Los Angeles, we believe we can end homelessness within our lifetime.
 Source: U.S. Census Bureau – 2014 American Community Survey