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Homeless Need More

Homeless people who lost their belongings when police raided their makeshift camp will get $500 from the city of Los Angeles. Without admitting wrongdoing, city officials will dole out the money today to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of 41 men and women. Their attorney hopes the payment will discourage overzealous police in the future.

The $500 will more than compensate for most of the possessions lost during the sweep of a camp near City Hall. The homeless people will be able to replace clothing, bedrolls, backpacks and medicines. The money, however, will do nothing to address the basic issue--the acute shortage of cheap and decent housing.

Some men and women hope to use the money to turn their lives around and get off the streets. But what will $500 buy? A ticket to another city with enough left over to make a fresh start? A couple of months’ rent for a room on Skid Row? It certainly isn’t enough to get into a small, basic apartment in Los Angeles.

In Orange County some homeless people have contacted the Legal Aid Society to assist them in filing similar claims against the city of Santa Ana for bedrolls and possessions taken by city workers in sweeps in the civic center area. In a Superior Court hearing Tuesday, Judge William F. McDonald let a temporary restraining order issued against Santa Ana last month expire without further action to see how the city’s new policy of storing bedrolls picked up in sweeps will work.

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More housing is the key to getting men and women, and the growing number of homeless children, off the streets. The nation has lost 2.5 million apartments and homes for low-income people since 1980, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences. As housing costs have exploded, the demand for affordable housing has grown dramatically, according to the study of 10 cities, including Los Angeles.

Housing isn’t the only answer, however, for the men and women who lose their jobs--and therefore their homes--due to poor health, alcoholism, drug abuse or mental illness. They need help from federal and county governments. Most need more help than a $500 legal settlement can provide.


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