We here in Burbank, and across Los Angeles, have experienced the results of a crisis of homelessness for many years. Just this month, it was made clear that throwing money at the problem is not a solution: “Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent to curb homelessness, the number of people without a home in Los Angeles grew last year for the fifth time in the last six years, officials announced Friday. And that was before the pandemic.”
Rampant homelessness does not have one cause and one solution. We are seeing the outcome of the deterioration of the middle class, income inequity, real estate speculators and developers driving the market, lack of support and treatment for mental illness, and other causes. Up to 40% of women are homeless due to domestic violence. The current percentage of homeless veterans has increased due to the pandemic.
Our current state is the result of a deterioration of socio-economic structures that has happened through the layers of our community. However, we can take steps towards solutions; this is not a problem that we can say belongs to someone else.
Our City government created a three-year (2018–2021) plan to address homelessness. (https://www.burbankca.gov/home/showdocument?id=42879) The focus is on the homeless in our city and providing the resources and support they need. It utilizes service agencies that specialize in this area, such as Ascencia.
With the current economic and health crisis, the community needs to hear an update on the status of the goals of the plan. We need current information as to the number of homeless, what services are continuing to be provided, and how this plan will continue to be funded in light of the anticipated budget deficit.
What is most important is that we do not criminalize homelessness. “Criminalization measures waste limited state and local resources. … it creates a costly revolving door that circulates individuals experiencing homelessness from the street to the criminal justice system and back.” It costs less to house people than incarcerate them. This philosophy must be understood by our entire community and put in practice by ourselves, our government and our law enforcement officers.