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L.A. has enough money to take thousands of people off the street and house them in motels — right now

L.A. has enough money to take thousands of people off the street and house them in motels — right now
The former residents of a cleared-out encampment along the Santa Ana River wait to board buses to motels on Feb. 20. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Thanks to U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who would not allow Orange County officials to clear a large riverside homeless encampment without providing services to the residents, the people who were evicted from their campsites received motel vouchers that provided for monthlong stays. ("Orange County's riverside homeless begin trading tents for motel vouchers, other aid as camp is cleared," Feb. 20)

We can do this, Los Angeles. Rooms at small motels cost about $85 per night. It usually takes about three months to get a person traumatized by homelessness stable enough to work, or to get those who are disabled qualified for Social Security payments.

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Los Angeles' Measure HHH is projected to bring in about $100 million annually. Each member of the City Council has pledged that 222 housing units for homeless people will be built in his or her district. But building all that housing will take years.

Do the math: The cost to house someone in a $85-per-night motel for three months comes to $7,650. Do that for 222 people in 15 City Council districts, and the grand total would be about $25.5 million. That's a fraction of what Measure HHH is supposed to bring in a year for new housing.

Using motels and case management, the city could get about 1,000 people off the streets every month starting now — and now's the time to start.

Marsha Temple, Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of the nonprofit Integrated Recovery Network.

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To the editor: Three cheers for Judge Carter and his pragmatic and humanitarian approach to clearing the homeless encampment near the Santa Ana River. Instead of just ruling "yes" or "no" on the removal, he went to the scene and got an agreement from local officials to do what they obviously should have done in the first place: provide motel vouchers, food coupons, bus rides and other help before removal.

The rest of California should take note and follow this as a Judge Carter precedent: no removal without help. Don't constantly kick homeless people out just for them to land somewhere else.

The idea that gobs of money will buy us out of homelessness by someday (maybe) building thousands of housing units is fantasy. Steve Lopez wrote of one such proposal to house homeless people with new construction that could cost up to $660,000 per unit — and there's no guarantee it will get done.

Think what even half that amount per homeless person could do right now and not someday (maybe) in the future.

Lore Spangler, Los Angeles

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To the editor: As long as we insist on funneling our money to the wealthy, homelessness is here to stay.

What good is accomplished by having billionaires who couldn't possibly spend the wealth they have amassed at the expense of the average citizen? Wealth that could provide solutions for homeless people and universal healthcare?

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We have the billionaires who worship money and power and periodically give away a couple of million to show how generous they are. Do we have a trillionaire yet?

Charles Christian, Santa Barbara

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