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Letters to the Editor: The L.A. City Council’s disgraceful criminalization of homelessness

A man rests next to his belongings on a bus bench in Los Angeles in 2019.
A man rests next to his belongings on a bus bench in Los Angeles in 2019.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Like most Angelenos, I am disturbed and disheartened by the rise in homelessness in our city. This crisis is unhealthy and unsustainable not only for those experiencing homelessness, but also for our communities. (“Telling homeless people where they cannot camp will not stop them from being homeless,” editorial, July 1)

None of us wants to live in a Los Angeles where some Angelenos are sleeping on our streets as elected officials continue to demonstrate their inability to lead us out of this crisis. This ineffective leadership was on display this week when 13 of our 15 City Council members, who represent us in our pursuit of a better Los Angeles, voted to double down on policies that failed time and again.

To have our tax dollars continuously mismanaged and wasted by passing regressive policies that criminalize homelessness and further exacerbate a humanitarian crisis is unacceptable. We want politicians who will ride this energy of frustration and focus toward long-lasting housing solutions and resources that will bring this crisis to an end.

Jessica O’Malley, Sherman Oaks

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To the editor: Your editorial states, “But at its root, homelessness is about poverty.” If true, then homelessness should be easy to address.

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The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. Last year, the authority said 66,436 people in L.A. County were homeless. That’s more than $14,000 per person per year. With additional aid from other sources, that’s enough to share a small one-bedroom apartment with another person.

If homelessness is really about poverty, then let’s distribute these funds as rent assistance. With every other business posting “Help Wanted” signs, jobs should not be an issue for additional living expenses and climbing to self-sufficiency.

Why don’t we do this? Perhaps because deep down, we know it’s really not about the poverty?

Serge Dubovitsky, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Why in the world are our city and county leaders so befuddled by the homelessness problem? Don’t they understand that nobody wants people pitching tents on sidewalks, dumping trash on the beach, sleeping in public parks or urinating in public?

There is a solution. The city of Los Angeles owns large tracts of empty land outside the city in north L.A. County. I’ve hiked out there.

Set up a fully functioning tent village with room for a couple thousand people. Then interview each homeless person with an offer: Move into one of the hotel rooms set aside for them, or move into the tent village. As a long-time vacation camper, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if the majority chose the tent village.

Hotel and apartment living is cold and isolating. But tent camps, with the outdoors a few feet away, stars at night and folks to talk to next door, create the social support that people need. That’s why unhoused people pitch their tents together.

Anne Z. Cooke, Santa Monica

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To the editor: I read your editorial while visiting New York City. While there are many homeless people in New York, there are no tent cities that I see. I see a few men sleeping in Central Park, but not many.

I’m not sure why there is such a difference between Los Angeles and New York, but it would be interesting to find out

Harlan Levinson, Los Angeles

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To the editor: You state, “At its root, homelessness is about poverty.” Really? Step back and look at the big picture. Poverty is a secondary cause, not a root cause.

The true root cause of homelessness is overpopulation.

There were some homeless people on the streets in 1970s, when the population of California was 20 million. Everyone was housed then.

Therefore, if the root cause is overpopulation, then we truly have no deficit of housing. What we have is a surplus of people because our population is 40 million.

California cannot carry much more than 20 million people. At 40 million, we have exceeded the carrying capacity of our state.

Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich sounded the alarm in 1968 with his book “The Population Bomb,” and no one listened. Are we listening now?

Bill Smart, Santa Barbara


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