Los Angeles is a popular holiday destination. Travel companies advertise Hollywood glamour and California sunshine. But the City of Angels has another side to it – the USA’s second biggest homeless population.
The city of New York has the largest homeless population – but it also has strict provisions in place to shelter them. LA has a neighbourhood of 54 blocks known as Skid Row where between 5000 and 8000 people sleep on the sidewalk. When people think of the dangerous streets of LA, they may think of Compton and Westmont and the notoriously high homicide rate in these neighbourhoods. But the reality is twice as many people die whilst living on the streets as are murdered. The number of homeless deaths is on course to top 1000 this year.
Estimates of the overall homeless population in LA run between 36,000 (in the city) and 59,000 (in the county). Whatever the exact figure, homelessness is epidemic in Los Angeles and people are asking why and what should be done about it.
Housing and Urban Development
Like most developed nations, the United States used to have a well-funded subsidised housing programme. But under President Reagan the funding for this was slashed to the bone. Peter Dreier, the director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College in Los Angeles, was quoted by the online magazine SFWeekly: “Every park bench in America — everywhere a homeless person sleeps — should have Ronald Reagan’s name on it.”
Without the safety net of social housing, without funding from central government, how are regional authorities in LA supposed to deal with the homelessness crisis? Opinion is divided. Many voices call for restrictions on where homeless people can camp. Doors, driveways and parks are already off limits, and proposals are in place to make another 26% of the city – chiefly tunnels, bridges and cycle paths – restricted ‘banishment zones’ where the homeless population can be ordered to move on.
However, laws banning homeless people from sidewalks have proved unenforceable in the past, Skid Row residents even successfully sued the City Council because they failed to meet the federal requirement to provide sufficient shelter beds for the homeless population. (Jones vs the City of Los Angeles). The judge concluded that any homeless person arrested for sleeping on the streets in such circumstances should plead “not guilty” and contest the constitutionality of the arrest under the Eighth Amendment which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments”.
Homelessness is a global problem, and our solution is aimed at solving poverty and homelessness globally. Kanndoo’s apps work anywhere in the world, and through sale of our apps and advertising space on our apps, we are able to fund meaningful solutions to homelessness – such as the provision of housing and genuine work opportunities.