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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: L.A. has empty lots and unused buildings. Use them for homeless housing

A sidewalk blocked by homeless people’s tents
A man walks down 6th Street on the road, bypassing a sidewalk blocked by tents, in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 19.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: It’s beyond ironic that a great city like Los Angeles cannot solve homelessness. (“Tiny houses? Safe parking? Let’s give homeless people alternatives to the sidewalk,” editorial, Nov. 25)

Seemingly insurmountable issues have been addressed in the past. For example, Peter Ueberroth used his entrepreneurial zeal to make the 1984 Olympics a resounding success, and the 10 Freeway was quickly rebuilt after the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Homelessness is solvable too.

There are many half-finished commercial and residential properties, empty older buildings and vacant lots located all over our city. Residential neighborhoods and city officials are often at odds trying to figure out how to create more housing and alleviate high rents that lead to evictions and homelessness.

And yet, those empty properties have served no one for years. This makes no sense. Owners have a right to make decisions about their own property, but if years go by and a property becomes a blight to the neighborhood and wasted space, our laws ought to address that.

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Recently, a vacant building burned in Van Nuys, and a nearby homeless encampment had to be evacuated. That building could have been brought up to code and converted into a shelter years ago, but now it’s no good to anyone.

We’re better than this.

Genie Saffren, Los Angeles

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To the editor: There are two types of homeless people that your reporters have highlighted over the years.

The first type is people who are temporarily homeless; they are able-bodied and have no major medical issues. The second type includes people like Nathaniel Ayers, whose life and struggles with mental illness have been covered extensively by columnist Steve Lopez.

It is naive to think that both can be helped with the same policies and programs. Temporarily homeless people can be helped with the transitional housing and other services being proposed. The second type is an entirely different ballgame. Ayers, for example, has received mental healthcare over the years, and yet when Lopez last wrote about him, he was in a locked facility.

The community health clinics that were supposed to help people with mental illnesses after state mental hospitals closed were never built. With nowhere to go, these “patients” take up residence wherever they can.

The simple solution is to build large mental hospitals to serve these people. Otherwise, our leaders will continue to throw money into the wind.

Charles Blankson, Fontana

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To the editor: Homelessness is a symptom of our society that allows the rich to subvert the labor laws and lacks any real safety net for people who lose their jobs when a factory or Sears store closes or when they become ill.

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When destitute veterans from World War I camped out in Washington in 1932, President Herbert Hoover sent in U.S. Army soldiers to clear them out. When they came back with Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House, the veterans were provided with three meals a day and a clean campsite. These were the same people and with the same issues, but they got two completely different responses.

At this time we have to many Hoovers at all levels of government in this country.

Bruce Stenman, Prunedale, Calif.

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To the editor: The Hollywood bridge home already has excused more than 20 original occupants for failing to follow a very limited set of simple rules. They are back on the street.

These people effectively have refused available shelter. And still, the city will do nothing about them as they continue to live on the street and violate numerous laws.

One wonders what the L.A. Times Editorial Board would propose for those who refuse to park in safe spaces or to move into tiny houses or to relocate to government-sanctioned encampment areas. Would the L.A. Times support arrests? Does the city even have the resources to arrest or incarcerate those resistant to the editorial board’s ideas?

Jeffrey C. Briggs, Hollywood

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To the editor: In reading the L.A. Times’ extensive coverage of Los Angeles’ housing shortage and the horrific homelessness crisis, I find myself appalled and saddened.

In the Nov. 23 print edition, I read an article about making sure homeless people stay warm and dry during the rainy season. In the same issue there were two large sections advertising real estate properties, none of which could be used to solve the problems of affordable housing and homelessness.

What is to be done? Perhaps the 2020 election will help bring about solutions; if so, it will only be a start. We have a long way to go.

Donna Wilkinson, Los Angeles

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To the editor: We need new ideas to reduce homelessness? Just look around.

Plenty of space exists to house people at the Westside Pavilion, and there’s also the unfinished Target store on Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue in Hollywood. Newly built apartment buildings have vacancy signs.

Michael Haas, Los Angeles


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