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Letters to the Editor: L.A. needs to be laser-focused on affordable housing to solve homelessness

 A small homeless encampment sits in the shadow of L.A. City Hall on Jan. 17.
In order to replicate Houston’s success on homelessness, Los Angeles’ leaders should align policy and resources behind affordable housing construction, a reader writes.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: Houston’s successful efforts to reduce homelessness are widely hailed, and Marshall Ingwerson is correct to argue that Los Angeles should draw lessons from them. As he notes, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority consults with the architect of those efforts.

Ingwerson makes one incontrovertible point painfully clear: To solve homelessness, Los Angeles needs five times the affordable housing it has today, and we need it soon.

However, there is little evidence that making “street homelessness a little less uncomfortable has the unintended consequence of drawing more people into the streets.” On the contrary, improving safety and health saves lives and builds trust. If our “compassion is conflicted,” it is due to policymakers tacking back and forth between Band-Aid solutions in response to housed neighbors and singular pushes to create the housing we need.

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In order to achieve Houston-level impact, Los Angeles’ leaders should align policy and resources behind affordable housing construction, so improved outreach and coordination at the service level can end in permanent housing for many more people.

During the pandemic, we saw how fast L.A. can move when government, business and nonprofit partners came together through Project Roomkey to bring thousands of hotel rooms online in the matter of weeks. We can do that again, and at scale.

New state and federal funds can facilitate this, but local policy makers must clear away planning, zoning and process obstacles in order to quickly put more house keys in more hands.

Heidi Marston, Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

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To the editor: Thank you for that excellent article comparing the different approaches of Houston and Los Angeles to dealing with homelessness. I have often thought that we need to find cities around the world that successfully address this problem and try to learn from them.

Cities like London do not have large homeless encampments. Surely we can learn from other successful cities and try to find a reasonable and realistic approach rather than just throwing money at the situation.

David Waldowski, Laguna Woods

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