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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Homeless Angelenos are residents too, just like the city’s housed

Homeless encampment in Echo Park
A tent encampment under the 101 Bridge on Alvarado Street near Echo Park.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I have lived in Hollywood for about five years, and like most residents I have seen the impacts of the homelessness crisis firsthand. Encampments rise and fall, come and go, but the problem is only getting worse. As frustration with the lack of progress grows, we are at a flashpoint in our city. Violence against the unhoused is on the rise as Nextdoor threads and Facebook groups openly advocate for vigilantism.

Given all this, I was so incredibly disappointed by columnist Steve Lopez’s three-part series.

The pieces lean into negative stereotypes, use anecdotes to reinforce myths, focus on the trauma of housed residents as it relates to their unhoused neighbors (whom the author evidently doesn’t think of as residents at all), and props up the counterproductive “law and order” approach to managing this crisis.

It saddens me that my neighbors would rather raise $1,000 to install hostile architecture than provide harm reduction to the city’s most vulnerable people. We need a public health response — bathrooms, sharps containers and trash removal would help. It may not have been Lopez’s goal to provide more ammunition to those who oppose these services, but unfortunately, it’s too late to prevent that.

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Steve Ducey, Hollywood

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To the editor: “Angry, frustrated and overwhelmed” -- these are the takeaways from the recent poll on homelessness that have stuck with us at the California Community Foundation (CCF).

I too am angry -- about systemic injustices in labor, housing, education and criminal justice that feed into the disproportionate rates of homelessness and housing insecurity for people of color.

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I too am frustrated -- that we are left plugging gaping holes in a social safety net that has been woefully underfunded for decades. However, I am not overwhelmed.

We are on the path to build 10,000 new units of supportive housing by 2026. We’re leading the state in new housing production, building 2,000 interim housing beds by this summer, and housed more people than ever before with a dramatically scaled-up homeless services system.

CCF donors also gave more than $25 million last year to help build faster and better, to create interim housing for young people exiting foster care and older veterans, and to test innovations in housing production and service provision.

I am growing impatient, though. As regular volunteers at the Dolores Mission, my family and I have seen the lines grow longer each month. When I visit the downtown Flower Market, I’m disheartened by the growing humanitarian crisis on the street.

This impatience keeps me passionate about scaling up our collective investments in solutions we know work to help the most vulnerable Angelenos thrive. This problem requires persistence and a long-term vision. As a 105-year-old institution dedicated to positive change in Los Angeles, CCF is in this for as long as it takes.

Antonia Hernández, Los Angeles

The writer is president and chief executive of the California Community Foundation.

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To the editor: The L.A. Times has published countless articles about people living on the streets. Many focus on affordable housing, which will only help the working and healthy.

Those who need active support, most practically in a group home setting, are locked out of almost all neighborhoods by a thicket of intertwining interests. Some are obvious, such as the enormous expense and delay of licensing; others are not as apparent, such as restrictions in planned communities that ban anything like an assisted living home.

I have taken in people off the streets and been harassed by neighbors and various government agencies, and that is in a rural area with far fewer limits on land use. In a society where concern for your fellow human is actively discouraged, homelessness will be with us always.

John Stevenson, Ramona, Calif.

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To the editor: Los Angeles Police Department Det. Shannon Geaney asks why there isn’t a greater push to get homeless people off the streets.

The answer: Most homeless people don’t vote, and they don’t donate to politicians. The solution is to get those who do vote and do donate to pressure leaders to do something more than make speeches.

Speak up and hold politicians accountable.

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Toni Sandell, Riverside

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To the editor: There will be people who have no choice but to camp in tents in Los Angeles at night.

We have the choice of either having them eat, sleep, urinate and defecate on our sidewalks and in our doorways and alleyways, or providing an alternative location with both sanitation and supervision.

We cannot make the problem disappear. Shelter or housing construction will take years to complete and never be sufficient.

We provide public golf courses, public bike trails and public parks (even public dog parks) for the more affluent. Why can’t we provide orderly, sanitary and heavily supervised campgrounds for these people who have no choice but to camp?

It may not be a perfect solution, but it would be better than what we are doing now.

John W. Conrad, Riverside

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To the editor: With all due respect to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, she has lost all authority to be shocked by people who oppose building housing for homeless residents.

Her vote in favor of overturning the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Martin vs. Boise signals her support for homelessness criminalization. When politicians support criminalization, it signals to the public that our unhoused neighbors are dangerous.

Elected officials who support criminalization should not be shocked when the public pushes back against housing and shelter.

Connor Murray, Manhattan Beach


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