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Letters to the Editor: Don’t believe anyone peddling an easy solution on homelessness

A person lies on a sidewalk, their head in the road. Car lights and people walking are seen in the background.
A homeless person sleeps on the boardwalk hours before the start of a cleanup of encampments in Venice on July 9.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Homelessness is complex. Who knew? Well, anyone working in the mental health arena, as I have for more than 25 years. (“The recall candidates’ plans on homelessness won’t lessen the problem and could get California sued,” editorial, July 18)

Is the solution housing first? Treatment first? Voluntary treatment? Involuntary treatment? Reforming the rules for involuntary holds? As I say to my students, the answer is all of the above.

Those suffering without a permanent place to reside are not a homogenous population and therefore cannot be helped by a single remedy. The multitude of problems leading to homelessness requires an equally diverse set of solutions.

Years ago I was a member of a multidisciplinary task force to update California’s antiquated Lanterman–Petris–Short Act (LPS) laws, which regulate involuntary mental health commitments. We were unable to attract sympathetic ears in Sacramento willing to tackle this electrified issue.

LPS reform is but one element. Additional resources for substance abuse, more hospital beds for mental health patients, improved access to low-cost housing, and increased resources for voluntary, involuntary and assisted outpatient treatment are all necessary.

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Anybody claiming to have a plan to fix this problem with only one remedy is like a mechanic claiming to be able to overhaul your engine with only one tool — it won’t work.

Jody Rawles, M.D., Long Beach

The writer is professor and executive vice chair in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

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To the editor: It is a sad state of affairs when Mary’s Kitchen, a nonprofit homeless services provider in the city of Orange, is having its lease terminated early by the city and was given only two weeks to produce a plan for moving out.

Nonprofits like Mary’s Kitchen are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Housed residents typically do not want homeless people in their neighborhoods, nor do they want them housed nearby.

Who stands to gain from disrupting the lives of the 150-200 helped by Mary’s Kitchen each day? This place should receive an award for helping the most vulnerable people, who can get not not only food, but also showers, the use of laundry facilities and mail service.

One person was quoted as saying at an Orange City Council meeting, “This city has lost its soul.” Many cities in Southern California have lost their soul, so it’s time for our leaders to take bolder steps to help the most vulnerable obtain housing and other lifesaving services.

Judy R . Martin, Los Angeles


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