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Opinion

Readers React: Is there a connection between homelessness and illegal immigration?

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Pedestrians walk past a homeless encampment in Koreatown on May 16.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Your editorial regarding three “myths” about homelessness in Los Angeles makes several claims regarding the causes and demographics behind our current crisis. I’ll assume for now that all the facts you state are correct.

One of your claims is that many of L.A.’s homeless people are local residents “priced out of their apartments by rents that are rising faster than their incomes.”

Rents are strictly a result of supply-and-demand economics, and fewer rental units coupled with an increasing population will cause them to increase. Importing third-world poverty exacerbates that problem by bringing in more people to compete for the lowest rung of rental property.

That jump in demand will obviously drive rents up, starting from the bottom of the rental market. It seems somewhat contradictory for the L.A. Times’ editorial board to sympathize with people in the country illegally, and then complain that rising rents are pushing people out onto the streets.

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Jeff Pressman, Bell Canyon

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To the editor: Your editorial rightly emphasizes that two-thirds of homeless people in L.A. County are not in fact homeless because of mental illness or substance abuse. You go beyond your own evidence, however, in claiming that these people “fell into homelessness because of the widening gap between wages and housing costs.”

As your editorial points out, in addition to being literally priced out of your home, losing a job, losing a partner or suffering a serious accident or illness can result in homelessness.

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If you lack job skills, cannot find a job or cannot work, closing the gap between average wages and housing costs will not mitigate your suffering. More support services are needed as well.

Robert Sawyer, Long Beach

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To the editor: If the basis of the article is factual and statistically accurate, we can begin to make a dent in the homeless problem without building more housing.

Families that are economically distressed may have skills that are salable in other markets, even if they are priced out of Los Angeles by high housing costs. Why not develop a grant program that gives families $10,000 or so to resettle in an area where the prices are lower and job opportunities are perhaps better?

After all, we are a country that believes in second chances.

Stephen White, Studio City

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To the editor: I am curious how it was determined that, of the 100,000 people who fell into homelessness at some point during the last year in L.A. County, about two-thirds are not dealing with a mental health or addiction issue.

Was this by self reporting? Because it is my experience as a social worker for the last 28 years that some of the most seriously mentally ill people are in denial about their condition.

Randy Farhi, Los Angeles

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