Last Friday, February 1, at the main library Julie Rusk, Director of Human Services, and past mayor Councilman Richard Bloom, a Bring Home LA founder and longtime Board member, announced a plan based on a three-day survey just completed January 31, to focus on 110 homeless people in Santa Monica. The survey was directed by Common Cause, a New York developer of homeless housing in collaboration with 60 volunteers from the local police, LAHSA (Los Angeles Housing Authority), and local homeless service providers who covered much of the City’s tourist and retail areas. They interviewed 277 homeless people. The purpose was to identify the 110 of the most vulnerable people. The volunteers surveyed their historical, psychological, and medical background.
The results read like a pathological forensic report. A third had been homeless for over 15 years, another third for over 10 years. The average age was 55. Over half of the focus group had three or more risk indicators such as emergency hospitalizations, over age 60, cirrhosis, or had been victims of violent crimes. The results found that homeless people are some 25 times more likely to die prematurely!
Here is some history of the “permanent housing” movement in Los Angeles over the last few years. Bring Home LA is a coalition of the county’s largest homeless service agencies and city elected officials. Bring Home LA boasted to the public in 2002 that they would “End Homelessness in 10 Years.” However in October last year, LAHSA’s current survey of LA County’s homeless found 57,166 or 83 percent living on the street! In six years since that boast there has been little appreciable change in the county’s homeless count.
In 2004, Santa Monica started its Chronic Homeless Outreach program, which is based on the permanent housing approach. Since 2004, the City has placed only 51 people into permanent housing! At this pace most of the lucky 110 will probably be dead before they get housing! Is it moral to have permanent housing for less than 5 percent while 83 percent are ignored altogether? Permanent housing alone does nothing for tens of thousands of homeless people in LA County who are subject to police harassment or arrest as well as getting mugged for their possessions, raped, or all three every night!
Common Ground and the City’s Human Services division did an excellent job describing the excruciating demographics of homeless suffering, but then they turn around and abandon the majority of individuals who they know are disabled and suffering to promote unrealistic permanent housing for a very small minority. I can’t believe there is no bottom to the abyss homeless people fall into. Shouldn’t there be a human rights law declaring no human shall be held criminally responsible for lack of money and that every human is entitled to a safe, sheltered bed, sanitary facilities, and safe storage at night? Every new concept is before its time, but organized camping with caseworker management is not before its need!