Each night, there are 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. That’s more people than the population of Venice and Culver City put together and of those, 20 percent are physically disabled, 25 percent are mentally ill, and about 10 percent of them are children. Take a moment to let that sink in.
There’s a lot to feel ashamed of in those numbers and I could throw down a long list of other statistics that would make you sick to your stomach – like the fact that more than a quarter of all those homeless people are in families headed by single mothers, or that 41 percent of our homeless adults were employed within the last year.
Your politics aside, these people are a part of our community and there is an economic, social, and environmental cost to allowing this issue to continue festering. Each homeless person is lost potential economic productivity. Every trip to the emergency room or jail is taxpayer money. Any crime by or against the homeless population diverts vital funds from schools to public safety. But, most importantly, it’s a self-sustaining blight against humanity.
I don’t want to get into the conversation of why or how a person is homeless. To me, it’s irrelevant. Either that person made bad choices, caught some bad luck, or simply couldn’t avoid it for whatever reason. My worry is the drag on our community and when I speak of “our community”, I’m talking about everybody – homeowner, renter, entrepreneur, and homeless person.
I think it’s obvious why we need to act now for the benefit of the homeless. How can that person take care of himself or contribute to the community when he doesn’t even have the basic privacy to go to the bathroom or change his clothes? Should we let someone who can’t make a better choice just slip off to hide in the shadows of our streets? Do our teachers have any chance of helping a kid whose only time to relax is in the safety of a classroom?
Did you know that homeowners in Venice pay a median property tax rate of $6,711 per year? What does the city of Los Angeles owe the person who pays that each year? A street full of RVs? I recently met a young father who had to explain to his 5-year-old daughter why a homeless man was peeing on the sidewalk in front of their house one morning. Is that okay?
I don’t think that anyone on our city council lacks compassion, but it takes more than feeling sorry for someone to fix a problem that affects every corner of society. It takes the political will to spend the money and time to change things.
And if we don’t do it now, when? We’re in an era of high foreclosures, empty housing, and nearly zero interest rates. Will tackling this problem head-on ever be less expensive, or should we wait until all of the homeless children grow up? Every single person has value in our society, but they can’t begin to tap the unlimited potential for human greatness that resides within us all until they have the security of a room.