Letters to the Editor: L.A.’s homelessness strategy focuses too much on where unhoused people can’t be

Encampments block much of the sidewalk on Spring Street near Los Angeles City Hall.
Encampments block much of the sidewalk on Spring Street near City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 15.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: A credible homeless street engagement strategy has to be rooted in a commitment to actually house the vulnerable human beings who need and deserve housing, and not just to clear the streets. (“Will an L.A. street engagement strategy really get homeless people housed? Don’t count on it,” editorial, Nov. 18)

The City Council’s proliferation of resolutions to ban encampments puts the focus on where people can’t be. What the council isn’t clear on is where people are going.

The council and the public should know what interventions were offered and what was successful in ending someone’s unhoused experience. Otherwise, the city will just be spending a tremendous amount of time and money supporting the shuffling of homeless people from one corner to another.


So far, the city has invested only about $2 million in additional outreach teams, roughly the same it is spending on “no camping” signs. What is still missing is a massive additional investment to support actually housing these Angelenos.

Accountability matters, and the strategy advanced in my absence from the council soft-pedals on the components that are vital to ensuring a meaningful change on our streets.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles

The writer is a suspended member of the Los Angeles City Council.


To the editor: Recent articles show a disconnect even at your own newspaper when it comes to the root causes of our homelessness crisis. Housing is vital but cannot be singularly touted absent a robust commitment to sustained mental health and substance use treatment.

The Times Editorial Board, in reviewing the city’s street engagement strategy, suggests that the only way to move people from the streets is to offer “transitional housing that leads to a permanent home.” If only it were that simple.


Conversely, news articles highlight complicating factors not solved by housing alone. One cites our patchwork-quilt mental health system and asserts people struggling with their mental illness are cycled through temporary psychiatric treatment or jail, “never getting the long-term care they need.”

That article references the lack of hospital beds for stabilization care and observes that because there is a lack of post-acute placement beds, “many people land back on the street before they are totally stable.”

The second article cites the national tragedy of record-breaking drug overdose deaths, which is a wake-up call to what we are seeing play out on our streets throughout L.A. County.

Kerry Morrison, Los Angeles

The writer is founder and project director of the homeless services advocacy group Heart Forward LA.