Homelessness Is Our Tragedy

Her smile is beaming. You can see she feels genuine pride as she reflects on this time in her life. She even carries pictures of herself taken during her service in the United States Marines. Completing two tours in Iraq, Lanette thrived in the military lifestyle and the structure it offered.

female homeless veteran

Civilian life has not been as easy. Suffering from PTSD, Lanette found personal and work relationships challenging. She turned to Spice, a dangerous drug, to try and feel better. This led to her current circumstance: homeless and living in her car near Inglewood.

Lanette is one tragedy. But she is not the only one in crisis. There were roughly 46,874 others experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County alone last year.
This tragedy, our tragedy is even more amplified. Homeless people are dying in our community when death could have been prevented.

According to Mark, who became homeless after losing his job, three people died recently within his homeless community alone. The heartbreak is very personal for Mark. His girlfriend, who lived in the tent behind him, was one of the casualties.

homeless man in manchester square
Living in an encampment at Manchester Square area near LAX, Mark says people are contracting phenomena. They are getting sick from mold that is growing in their damp tents.

If these victims had been living in proper housing, their deaths could have been avoided. Yet the number of people experiencing homelessness rises annually, putting more people at risk of dying. In Los Angeles County, the number of people living in encampments, tents and vehicles increased by 20% from 2015 to 2016 and a staggering 123% from 2013 to 2016.

There is hope and that is you. By voting YES to Measure H, you will help support an initiative that reduces and prevents homelessness. You can help people get off the streets and save their lives.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has placed Measure H on the March 7 ballot. Funded through a proposed ¼-cent County sales tax, Measure H would generate approximately $355 million annually to be used exclusively on proven efforts that reduce and prevent homelessness. These efforts include mental health, housing services, job counseling and substance abuse treatment.

Measure H will help an estimated 45,000 families and individuals move from homelessness to permanent housing within the first five years. It would also enable 30,000 more to avoid becoming homeless. People like Miranda.

homeless woman los angeles


Miranda was evicted from her apartment two years ago with no option but the streets. She has been homeless in West Los Angeles ever since. In the last few months, Miranda says she has been forced to move the location of her tent six times. While I was talking to her, a man pulled up in a BMW yelling at her to leave the area. But where can she go?

Vote Measure H and you will be helping people like Lanette, Mark and Miranda. Living on the streets is living in critical danger. Help end the crisis now before it becomes worse.

To learn more about the Los Angeles homeless crisis and Measure H, visit VoteYesOnH.com and follow me on social media where I am sharing stories about our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Who Do We Call When a Homeless Person Needs help?

Homelessness Is a Nationwide Crisis That Must Be Addressed.

A lot can happen in 15 years: You attend college. You get a new job. You rent your first apartment. You get married, start a family, buy a house. For Jossalyn, little has happened. She has spent the past 15 years homeless.

Like many others I meet on the streets, Jossalyn has fallen through the gaps in the safety net. She is surviving now, but how long will it be before Jossalyn becomes critically vulnerable?

I’m reminded of a question Nancy Lublin and her daughter asked me repeatedly on a recent tour of Skid Row. Besides 911, who can people call when they see a homeless person needing help? And there are people in dire need of homeless services everywhere.

injured homeless man in parkAn elderly gentleman lies on a park bench with a head injury. You ask if he is alright; he slurs that he is fine and waves you on. It becomes clear that he is intoxicated, most likely homeless and in need of medical help.

In another city, a man asks if you can spare some money. You notice he has severe, deep sores on his arms that require medical attention.

Using cardboard as flooring, a woman sits on a city street. You can clearly see a large tumor growing on her abdomen as she struggles. She needs urgent help.

These are actual people suffering in cities across the country. Any decent person wants to call a professional to help. But who do you call?

More Support Needed for Homeless Services

Some municipalities have homeless response teams providing outreach to those in need. In Philadelphia, for example, the city partners with Project Home offering a 24-Hour Homeless Outreach Hotline and an emergency response team will be dispatched.

In Pittsburgh, one can call Jim Withers, a doctor that goes out on the streets to help homeless people.

The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program is another amazing service. Of course, Massachusetts has healthcare funding for chronic homeless.

In LA, they have started C3 teams in different areas of the city that have mental health, nurses, housing and other stakeholders going out on the streets together. This is a huge step in the right direction, but services still need to be expanded significantly.

In other cities, emergency response numbers are provided for people to call. But the cities lack resources to send an outreach team to help. You can call the number, but no help will be provided.  Not to mention an outreach worker is powerless without support services to plug people into.

Most cities don’t offer emergency response at all. There is simply not enough money to provide needed support for homeless people in cities big and small. More funding is needed for homeless services.

Existing services also need to be extended. Many homeless services only operate from 9a to 5p Monday through Friday. However, the majority of homeless crises happen at night.

I support the shift over the last few years of targeting the most vulnerable with the limited resources available. But if we are ever going to truly end homelessness, we need to figure out how to get everyone off the streets.

The longer a person remains homeless, the more vulnerable they become. This leads to a greater need, which far outweighs the resources.

Real Solutions Needed for People Like Jossalyn

I have been in a few conversations trying to find a solution for Jossalyn.

While she receives general relief (welfare), which is not enough to pay any rent, she most likely does not qualify for supportive housing. Rapid Rehousing funds, if available, are only temporary. And, the theory behind Radpid Rehousing programs is a person will be able to support themselves in a given amount of time.

Jossalyn is smart and articulate; she is not on drugs, she is not disabled or on SSI, nor does she have a visible mental illness. She does have a felony on her record and therefore has run into obstacles trying to get a job. In addition, she is a senior and she is black. She has also lived in the streets far too long.

I believe she’d be a great worker after a little time and healing, but who is going to hire her with a wage that she can support herself?

In every community, we need an emergency response for people to call when they see a homeless person who needs help. We also need better programs for people like Jossalyn to get everyone off the streets before they become vulnerable. Nationwide, we need real solutions to homelessness, not more shelter programs. We need housing and support services.

Funding is the issue. Support for homeless services must be a priority.

Support Prop HHH To End Chronic Homelessness In L.A.

The crisis is everywhere in Los Angeles. People are living on the corner, under the freeway, in vacant lots near your home. Homelessness is a problem that connects almost every mile of the city. Prop HHH is the solution.

Also known as the Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities Bond, Prop HHH is a $1.2 billion bond measure that will provide the funding and infrastructure necessary to end and prevent chronic homelessness in the City of Los Angeles.

I recently conducted a video interview with Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a Los Angeles City Councilmember, District 8. As Chair Councilmember of the Homelessness & Poverty Committee (H&P), Harris-Dawson co-authored Prop HHH with Vice-Chair Councilmember José Huizar.

According to Harris-Dawson, the city of Los Angeles has never dealt with homelessness in a strategic fashion. With Prop HHH, the city council now has a plan to end homelessness, not just manage it.

Prop HHH will provide funding for 10,000 units of Permanent Supportive Housing. These units will provide housing for all chronically homeless residents in the city. Homeless people are brought indoors and offered services including long-term mental healthcare and opportunities to become self-sufficient.

In addition, there are projects already in the pipeline waiting for funding. If voters support the bond on Nov. 8, these units can be completed within 18 to 24 months. Rehab projects such as converting old motels into housing will take roughly 90 days to complete. “We will get new units on right away in almost every part of the city,” Harris-Dawson said.

Prop HHH will result in roughly a $9 increase in property taxes for every $100,000 of assessed value. The average Los Angeles homeowner will have an increase of approximately $30 per year in property tax.

While Prop HHH does require an investment, there are also savings to be obtained. “Voters should know: we spend $857 million a year on homeless people now. If HHH passes, we believe we can cut that in half, maybe even more,” Harris-Dawson said.

Please VOTE YES on Proposition HHH to help create 10,000 supportive housing units for our homeless neighbors. Let’s implement this solution to end chronic homelessness in L.A. When you go to vote, find Prop HHH on page 29, which is the last page of the ballot.

To learn more about the Los Angeles homeless crisis and Prop HHH, follow #YesOnHHH on social media. For more information on Housing First and how supportive housing saves lives, please watch this short video. The video explains how supportive housing can save taxpayers money in the long run.

Vote Yes on Prop HHH to Save Los Angeles.

Beverly prepared for her photo shoot. She freshened up her face, made sure her hair was in place pinning it back with accessories. After roughly a half-hour, she was ready for the camera.

Sounds like most people preparing to have a professional picture taken, right?

homeless woman getting ready for photo
Sadly, that is where the similarities end. Beverly moved to Los Angeles 11 years ago after experiencing Hurricane Katrina. She currently sleeps on a mattress under a city bridge and is considered chronically homeless.

We don’t often acknowledge the basic similarities we share as humans, especially with those experiencing homelessness. But we all need to feel dignity, to feel attractive and to simply be seen.

I have a deeper connection with Beverly as I, too, experienced homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles. While that was over 21 years ago, my passion for ending homelessness in Los Angeles has never been stronger.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles continues to increase. There was an 11% increase in homelessness last year. This year, the number of tent encampments and people living in their vehicles has jumped 20%.

I have been advocating for the Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond. Known as Prop HHH, this is a $1.2 billion bond measure that will provide the funding and infrastructure necessary to end and prevent chronic homelessness in the City of Los Angeles.

Prop HHH will help finance a significant increase in L.A.’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), a proven strategy to end chronic homelessness. If you’re not aware of Housing First and how supportive housing saves lives, please watch this short video. Featuring Dr. Sam Tsemberis, PhD, the founder of Pathways to Housing, the video also explains how supportive housing can save taxpayers money in the long run.

L.A. needs an additional 10,000 units of Permanent Supportive Housing in order to house all of the City’s chronically homeless residents. This includes women and children, veterans, seniors, foster youth and the disabled.

Prop HHH will be paid for with a roughly $9 increase in property taxes for every $100,000 of assessed value. The average Los Angeles homeowner will have an increase of approximately $30 per year in property tax. That’s $30 a year to save lives, to save people like Beverly.

I met Beverly when I joined an outreach team for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Despite her situation, simply asking if I could take her photo made her day. She gathered up as much self-worth and dignity as she could. She rummaged through her bags to find a brush and a mirror. Using water from a plastic jug, she washed her face. Then Beverly added a few items to her hair as her final touches.

As awesome as the experience was, Beverly is vulnerable. She is dying on the streets of Los Angeles like so many others. They need our help.

We must be willing to pay to end homelessness as this crisis will not solve itself. The greater Los Angeles community needs to come together to support Prop HHH. The longer Angelenos wait to take action, the worse and more expensive the homelessness crisis will get.

Please VOTE YES on Proposition HHH to help create 10,000 supportive housing units for our homeless neighbors. Most importantly, vote Yes to save lives and ultimately revitalize our greater LA community. When you go to vote, find Prop HHH on page 29, which is the last page of the ballot.

To learn more about the Los Angeles homeless crisis and Prop HHH, follow me on social media where I am sharing stories daily about our neighbors in need.

Homelessness Is a Symptom of Racism: Interview with Jeff Olivet and Marc Dones

“What we do not say often enough or loudly enough is that racism and homelessness are inextricably linked. Yes, racism. It is time to speak truth. It is time to call it what it is.” ~ Jeff Olivet

Please watch and share this important video interview with Jeff Olivet and Marc Dones. It’s an important conversation we need to keep front and center. If we are ever going to end homelessness, we need to address racism head on!

The first time I met Jeff Olivet was back in 2010 when we shared the stage speaking at a homeless conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am not the best public speaker, but I can typically hold my own. Jeff’s talk on the history of homelessness completely blew me off stage.

Fast forward to 2015. Jeff and I were once again keynoting a homeless services conference. I was fully prepared for Jeff to educate the audience on the crisis of homelessness. However, when this middle-aged white man opened his presentation with the statement, “Homelessness is a symptom of racism”, he once again blew me away.

While Jeff’s talk was spot on, the subject of homelessness and racism is a difficult and painful topic. As is the nature of conversations like this, they often seem to disappear, never to be brought up again. I didn’t think it would gain traction.

The good news is I was wrong and this conversation continues to take center stage. Jeff, who is CEO of the Center for Social Innovation, and Marc Done, Associate of Equity Initiatives & Diversity, regularly speak about homelessness and racism around the country. In fact, Jeff and Marc were invited to the White House Policy Briefing on Ending Youth Homelessness this past June. Read the “transcript of their talk” here [link].

Here is a short excerpt:

“More than 40 percent of people using shelter in the U.S. each year are African American, nearly three times their portion of the general population. A 2011 study by George Carter from the Census Bureau found that even when controlling for poverty, African Americans were dramatically more likely than Whites to become homeless, and there is some evidence that they stay homeless longer. It is more than a coincidence that Black children under 5 years old are 29 times more likely than their White counterparts to end up in the shelters of New York and Philadelphia–data reported by Culhane and Metraux. The only other racial group that comes close to these rates of homelessness is Native Americans. Again, no accident.”

Marc Dones added:

“There is a deep and abiding problem inside the picture of American homelessness that unequivocally points towards our racialized and racist policy history. For the adult population, the systematic exclusion of people of color, and specifically black people, from the housing market via redlining and housing covenants functionally meant that black people were largely excluded from home ownership until roughly 1970 after the passing and partial implementation of the Fair Housing Act.”

Homelessness Is a Symptom of Racism: Interview with @jeffolivet and @marcformarc Click To Tweet

For more information here are a few links:

Homelessness Is a Symptom of Racism

Homelessness, Racism and Social Justice

Racism and Homelessness by Jeff Olivet [PDF]

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