Readers React: Why you — yes, you — are partly to blame for homelessness

Homeless Populations Surge In Los Angeles County
A man sleeps on the sidewalk on Highland Avenue near Hollywood Boulevard on June 6.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

To the editor: Residents of Los Angeles voted to tax themselves to the tune of $1.2 billion to build housing for homeless people, and county residents approved a sales tax increase to fund services. So, why is our homelessness problem getting so much worse?

To quote Walt Kelly in his famous Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The city modestly proposed to build 200 units in each city council district, but Westside progressives protested and downtown immigrants said not in their neighborhood. We have empty warehouses downtown, we have empty warehouses in Pasadena where I live, and I look over the Rose Bowl parking lots in which a 1,000-person homeless shelter could be easily built.

If you want to see a model, look at the shelter that the late federal Judge Harry Pregerson built in the city of Bell in 1988. Visit and see how a homeless shelter can work. We cannot criminalize homelessness — that is the law, plus it’s decent — but we can build shelters.


One other thing must happen, and now: We must rid ourselves of NIMBYism. We are our brothers’ keepers, we must welcome the stranger, leaders are going to have to risk losing their jobs, and citizens will have to step our of their comfort zones and stop obsessing over their property values. Do we want to live like wealthy people in developing countries, surrounded by squalor and always looking over our shoulders?

Dave McLane, Pasadena

The writer is a civil rights attorney.



To the editor: This is a grave humanitarian crisis. To protect the health of all our citizens, we must take quick action. The Federal Emergency Management Agency should participate. This is what must be done:

  • Declare homelessness in Los Angeles an emergency of the highest order, thereby making additional state and federal funds available.
  • Designate overnight parking places where people living in vehicles can park without being harassed.
  • Obtain and distribute tents, cots and blankets citywide.
  • Set up and maintain public toilets, hand-washing facilities and garbage cans citywide that any citizen can access. Keep them secure.
  • Transform out-of-service buses into mobile showers and laundries with regular routes, to enable homeless citizens to get their bodies and their clothing clean.
  • Partner with local schools of medicine and social work to develop and deploy mobile clinics and counseling centers.
  • Partner with local food banks and restaurants to provide homeless citizens with greater access to wholesome food on a daily basis, since they have no access to refrigeration or safe food storage.
  • Mobilize additional street-cleaning crews.

If we fail to take these basic actions, we should expect more disease outbreaks, violence and preventable deaths.
Margaret Martin, Los Angeles

The writer is a doctor of public health.


To the editor: It is no surprise that homelessness increased in the city of Los Angeles by 16% and in the county by 12%. Bureaucratic floundering and corporate welfare to developers have miserably failed to solve this growing catastrophe.

As columnist Steve Lopez wrote, “The process for building housing with voter-approved millions from Measure HHH is maddeningly slow and the cost per unit — as high as $500,000 or more — screams out for a new model.”

The permanent supportive public housing that the End Homelessness Now-LA campaign calls for is that new model.


Publicly owned housing will never revert to market-rate housing. The monthly rent and Section 8 funding will belong to the city for maintenance and expansion of this housing. It will be less expensive and more cost-effective because no profits or tax breaks will be gifted to developers and private landlords.

In many other countries, large-scale public housing prevents homelessness. Los Angeles has much to learn from these places and should follow their lead immediately.

Val Carlson, Los Angeles

The writer is a civil rights attorney and member of End Homelessness Now-LA.


To the editor: L.A.’s homeless crisis is a failure of imagination and was built on a foundation of corruption at City Hall. History will judge us very harshly for lavishing privileges on billionaire developers while thousands died on the pavement.

Every single day that goes by when a single person must endure this indignity in one of the richest cities in the world reflects poorly on all of us. Our elected officials must be held accountable, or we are all responsible.

To underscore the magnitude of the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, consider this: The 58,936 homeless reported in L.A. in the 2019 count is a number greater than the populations of 50 of the 88 cities that make up Los Angeles County.


Michael Weinstein, Los Angeles

The writer is president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been involved in numerous housing-related initiatives in Los Angeles.


To the editor: I’ve been paying close attention to the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, particularly in Venice, where I live.

Venice is a hot-spot destination for homeless people. They come from all over the country, and probably from all over the world to be here, in Venice. That doesn’t mean we should build housing for them here.

This is the question: Is Venice is expected to shoulder more than our share of the crisis? L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin has said that we should build housing for these people in Venice because this is where they are.

We resent that.

Mindy Taylor-Ross, Venice

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