Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles city and county officials have given up on “ending homelessness” after a dramatic increase in the number of people living on the streets and blamed the whole mess on the housing crisis.
Despite multibillion dollar efforts to curb the city’s homeless problem, homelessness in Los Angeles County increased by 12 percent to almost 59,000 people in 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The city of Los Angeles’ homeless population grew even more, climbing 16 percent to more than 36,000 people without housing.
Approximately 75 percent of the homeless population in both the county and the city are living outside, contributing to a growing health crisis, The Lost Angeles Times reported.
Rats and trash surrounding homeless encampments has been blamed for an outbreak in the bacteria that causes typhoid fever.
At the end of May, at least two Los Angeles police detectives who work in the Central District had fallen ill and were being treated. Another detective had gone home sick with symptoms but had not yet been officially diagnosed.
Before the epidemic hit the police department, Deputy City Attorney Liz Greenwood was diagnosed with it in April, according to KNBC.
It took two months for the veteran prosecutor to recover before she could return to work.
“Unfortunately, our police officers often patrol in adverse environments and can be exposed to various dangerous elements,” the LAPD said in a statement. “We have notified the Police Protective League as well as our employees working at Central Division, about the outbreak and we have further provided them with strategies to stay healthy while we mitigate this issue.”
The city has been waging a war against an exploding rat population for several years as more homeless encampments have popped up in more parts of the city, KNBC reported.
“At this point of unprecedented wealth in the county of Los Angeles, we are equally confronted with unprecedented poverty manifesting itself in the form of homelessness,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Los Angeles Times.
The data was especially disappointing to county leaders who celebrated a modest decrease in homelessness in 2017.
The Los Angeles Times reported that county officials were confused as to how the homeless problem had grown in the same year they spent millions of dollars on new programs to put people into shelters and long-term housing.
Despite the fact that funds from a 2017 sales tax increase helped get 20,000 more people off the streets in 2018, the number of people becoming homeless outpaced the county’s efforts by far.
“Last year's count, we felt we were trimming in a way that would suggest we were getting our arms around this,” Ridley-Thomas said. “And yet this year we are pretty well stunned by this data.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti referred to the crisis as “heartbreaking” but expressed optimism that a new $42 million investment to help respond to public health concerns and provide more street-based services to those living outside would help reduce the problem.
“This work has never been for the faint of heart, and we cannot let a set of difficult numbers discourage us, or weaken our resolve,” the mayor told the Los Angeles Times.
Garcetti previously promised to open up homeless shelters in every council district of the city but has so far only succeeded in launching three.
Both the county and the city have backed off their promise of “ending homelessness” and have gone into triage mode, the Los Angeles Times reported.
City officials and leaders of nonprofits who help the homeless have declared that the homelessness problem won’t be adequately solved until the housing crisis in the region is addressed.
“If we don't change the fundamentals of housing affordability, this is going to be a very long road,” Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Executive Director Peter Lynn told the Los Angeles Times. “If we don't get ahead of affordability, we're going to be very hard pressed to get ahead of homelessness.”