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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Why police are the wrong people to lead efforts against homelessness

A homeless man in downtown Los Angeles
A homeless man sleeps on the Main Street bridge in downtown Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times )

To the editor: Homelessness and the housing crisis are complex, multifaceted social and economic problems. Criminalizing homelessness makes the problem worse and could lead to oppression.

Citations issued to unsheltered people may remain unpaid and unaddressed, resulting in deeper legal issues and creating an unnecessary barrier for someone who may otherwise have an opportunity to be housed (or employed). In the long run this could be more costly for the community.

Perhaps a more effective approach is to fund programs that provide training and employ peer advocates and professionals in social work and public health, and who are better equipped to educate the community and address the special needs of this population. Peer advocates can foster the necessary supportive relationships that could motivate others.

Nonprofessionals and professionals could provide intensive interventions, facilitate collaboration and organize efforts toward more stable permanent housing for people, improving the chances of ending homelessness.

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Lovelyn Santos, Rancho Cucamonga

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To the editor: There is legal authority for reframing the role of police officers to address the homelessness crisis.

In Jacobson vs. Massachusetts (1905), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the public health authority of the state arises from its constitutional police authority to keep people safe.

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David I. Schulman, Los Angeles

The writer is a retired attorney with the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.

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To the editor: A recent poll shows that most voters would like the police to play a larger role in dealing with homelessness. I like that.

But the broader role in this case would be to restrict homelessness — in effect, to make it illegal to live on the street. Where, then, should these people live if they cannot afford rent?

I would have much rather have police focus on helping homeless people move into suitable shelters and gain access to support services.

George Epstein, Los Angeles


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