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How L.A. County can reduce homelessness

To the editor: Your "solutions" are red herrings that will have little impact unless we effectively address the primary causes of homelessness: mental illness and substance abuse. ("L.A.'s grim homeless data: What can be done?," editorial, May 13)

In Los Angeles County, we continue to work with community groups, partner agencies and cities to establish mental health and public safety programs that target homelessness, including Psychiatric Emergency Teams. These teams of mental health professionals and law enforcement personnel directly engage homeless individuals over time, offering medical treatment for those who will accept it — and trying to engage those who won't. Sadly, most refuse treatment.

Additional reforms are also needed to streamline court processes, establish realistic standards allowing judges to refer the severely ill to treatment, and allow families to have greater access in the treatment process. Los Angeles County is in the process of fully implementing Laura's Law, a compassionate, cost-effective program that provides court-ordered, intensive mental health treatment to the homeless, many of whom are incapable of consenting to treatment due to the nature of their disease.

Shelters are good, but only if supportive services — including mental health and substance abuse treatment — are mandatory. Housing alone does not end homelessness. In fact, without treatment, the homeless become locked in a broken system of warehousing without healing. Also, those who entered the country illegally add to the increased number of homeless.

We need to work together at the federal, state and local levels, and in public-private partnerships, to provide the care and resources necessary to protect and treat this vulnerable population.

Michael D. Antonovich, Los Angeles

The writer is a Los Angeles County supervisor.


To the editor: I take exception to The Times' characterization of "gentrification" in downtown Los Angeles as a cause of homelessness. The numbers just don't support it.

Virtually all of the 22,000 units of housing built in the 15 years of the downtown renaissance were converted from old office, commercial and industrial buildings or built new on sites that had not contained any housing. Adaptive reuse accounted for about 5,700 units.

The Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance was adopted in 2008, protecting single-room occupancy hotels downtown. Furthermore, about 2,200 new units of affordable and permanent supportive housing units have been built here since 2001, the greatest concentration in the county.

Downtown has become a vibrant community in the last 15 years. But it did not come at the expense of affordable housing and is not a cause of homelessness. Rather, it has been one of the county's greatest generators of jobs and economic opportunity.

Carol E. Schatz, Los Angeles

The writer is president and chief executive of the Central City Assn. of Los Angeles.


To the editor: One thing the increase in Los Angeles County's homeless population shows is that the for-profit market cannot provide all our people with housing when values are so high.

People need government support either indirectly with housing regulations or directly by building and maintaining appropriate housing that meets the needs of a diverse population.

Doris Isolini Nelson, Los Angeles

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