Tackling the Issue of Homelessness
Homelessness. It is one of our state’s greatest challenges. Every night, over 130,000 Californians sleep on our streets. Homelessness has become a full-on crisis, one that has rightfully been the focus of policy discussions throughout the state. In response, we’ve put unprecedented resources and energy towards finding real and lasting solutions. Despite this, I know my constituents feel our efforts are not enough.
I’m not surprised. How can we think anything is getting done when every day we pass countless numbers of our peers, hurting, destitute and alone on the streets? We have an epidemic. And it’s easy to feel hopeless. But this crisis is solvable, although it won’t be easy or quick.
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported that a staggering 58,936 persons are experiencing homelessness countywide – a 12% increase from last year. These numbers come at the same time that the County of Los Angeles has been able to move 21,631 people off of the streets and into permanent housing. That means that nearly 40% of the homeless population counted last year was successfully housed. The shocking truth is that as fast as we find homes for some residents, even more lose their housing.
Part of the problem is the sheer complexity of this population’s needs. Some living on our streets have jobs, and friends, and simply need a unit they can afford. Many others require medical services, psychological care, drug treatment, workforce development and other intensive social services in order to keep a roof over their heads.
Over the past two years, state and local governments have escalated funding to combat the crisis. In 2018, the state allocated over $600 million to local governments to fight homelessness. This year, we’ve put nearly $3 billion toward tools local governments need to add housing and provide direly needed homelessness services. The funding includes dedicated resources for the construction and expansion of emergency shelters, job training, rapid rehousing programs, and innovative programs like hotel/motel conversions.
We’ve also passed a number of legislative solutions that empower localities, as well as average Californians, to fight this crisis in their own backyards. The legislature reduced the red tape and bureaucracy that slows the construction of affordable housing and shelters. I authored a package of bills encouraging accessory dwelling units (“granny flats”) to help homeowners, local governments and affordable housing organizations add new units of housing by easing restrictions and creating incentive programs. These are some of the solutions we have successfully put forward that will collectively make a significant impact.
Of course, not every measure introduced in Sacramento makes it through the legislative process and becomes law. In some instances, the lack of progress is frustrating. But the truth is, with a problem as complicated and multi-faceted as homelessness, it can take time to see the effects of our efforts.
While we continue to have the longer conversations about sweeping and complex actions at the state level, we are pursuing solutions that will make impacts almost immediately. The millions of dollars allocated for construction through the budget in June are already being put to work in building new housing in our community. We’ve enacted reforms to put critical services and shelters on the fast track.
However, we need to think beyond putting a roof over someone’s head. If we’re really going to be successful in turning the tide of homelessness, we need to invest in the services that can help our neighbors struggling with addiction, mental health crises and every other challenge under the sun.
We know that time is precious for each and every Californian who sleeps on our streets every night. We also know that thousands of individuals and families are only one paycheck away from losing their housing and falling into homelessness. Our goal is to develop housing and supportive services for those who are currently homeless and provide the necessary safety net for those teetering on the edge.
Few challenges in our state and region’s history have seen this level of investment, focus and attention. So while it may seem hopeless, real work is being done, investments are being made, and changes are being implemented every day.
What do you think of the current state of homelessness? Do you have ideas or suggestions for solutions? As always, please reach out to me with any comments, questions, or concerns through my District Office at (818) 558-3043 or Assemblymember.Friedman@Assembly.ca.gov.