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Commentary by Enaya Hanbali
| Tuesday, Feb 2, 2016

EnayaHanbaliAccording to the Los Angeles Department of Health, there has been a growing amount of homelessness over the last few years due to the long recession that is slowly turning around.

Health Department figures show that in 2013, the homeless population was 35,524, while in 2015 it was 41,174 people in Los Angeles County. In the Antelope Valley, which includes Palmdale and Lancaster, the homeless population in 2013 was 2,113 and increased to 2,818 in 2015. That is an increase of 33 percent in only two years.

At the same time, the homeless population in the county’s San Fernando Region, which includes Santa Clarita as well as Arleta, Burbank, Chatsworth, Encino, North Hollywood, North Hills, Pacioma, Panorama City, Reseda, San Fernando, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Sunland, Sun Valley, Sylmar, Van Nuys, Winnetka and Woodland Hills, increased from 4,836 people in 2013 to 5,216 people in 2015.

The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count (GLAHC), held Jan. 26-28, will tell us how many people are homeless this year. This count is important, because it determines how much funding to give to the homeless population which comes from our tax dollars. It is important to know what the homeless community’s needs are, such as health services, safe places to stay, food, hygiene and job hunting skills. It is also important to figure out how they became homeless in the first place so we can help find services to get their lives back together.

According to the 2015 count, there have been growing numbers of domestic violence cases in the Antelope Valley area that have rendered people homeless – from 178 cases in 2013 to 504 cases in 2015. So the domestic violence cases that result in homelessness in the Antelope Valley have almost tripled in two years.

Another factor is the increase in people with physical disabilities that led to their homelessness – from 360 in 2013 to 587 in 2015. That is a 63 percent increase within the past two years. This must mean the Antelope Valley area doesn’t have enough services available for people who face physical disabilities for various reasons, and also the area lacks access to safe places to get the homeless population out of domestic violence situations.

The county’s San Fernando Region faces many similar issues of the increasing rate of homelessness due to domestic violence, from 418 in 2013 to 1,248 cases in 2015. The region also faces the issue of homelessness due to physical disabilities, from 845 cases in 2013 to 1,097 in 2015, as well as mental illness cases resulting in homelessness, from 1,384 in 2013 to 2,095 in 2015. The recession must have created a lot of financial frustration and mental health problems resulting in partners or family members being severely abused.

There are many reasons for the increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County. According to the 2015 homeless count, the county’s unemployment rate stood at 7.5 percent while the national unemployment rate was 5.6 percent. The report also shows there has been a steep increase in rent over the past few years while salaries remain stagnant.

Twenty-two percent of individuals making $15 an hour or less live in poverty, while we have many people who work today at various fast-food and retail places making minimum wage of $10 an hour, which contributes to poverty and potentially homelessness if the prices of rent continue to increase.

If prices in California are going to increase, then the wages in California are either going to need to increase to livable levels by increasing minimum wage, or providing more services that are needed such as decent shelters and health services – or it should be the responsibility of the state of California or the federal government to help individuals who are homeless or living in poverty to relocate to a more affordable state to live in that has a lower unemployment rate.

The recession impacted California pretty heavily and has been slowly turning around. The best and cheapest option is to increase wages and get the price of rent lowered, or to get it to remain stagnant to help people who are living in poverty or homeless to get on their feet again.

 

Enaya Hanbali is a native Southern Californian of Arab American descent. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in public policy and administration from California State University, Long Beach.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Jim Shorts says:

    Enaya, raising the minimum wage for fast food workers is not going to help anything, quite the opposite. Where is that money going to come from? The corporations are not going to raise their prices and the shareholders are not going to cut THEIR profits, they EARNED them. They will only increase the workload so the same amount of work is completed with less people or reduce hiring to make up for the deficit. It’s called a free market and SOMEONE (read taxpayer) has to pay, nothing is free, as Bernie Sanders would have you believe. There is and never will be this utopia that liberals dream about. Your views are very socialistic but thank God we live in a society that defends your right to speak your mind. The government is already beyond intrusive in our lives the last thing we need is their hands reaching deeper in our pockets to take more of our hard earned money. Antonovich recently allocated an ADDITIONAL 50 million dollars to homelessness and according to you there is still a problem? This makes my point exactly, more money is not always the answer.

  2. Lee Poepping Lee Poepping says:

    Rents are to high not affordable.

  3. Tessa Lucero says:

    Domestic violence and physical disabilities certainly are causes of homelessness, and there are two elements you don’t mention: young adults who have aged out of foster care or whose parent(s) or guardians said “you’re eighteen, I’m no longer required to house you, get out”, and another mighty contributor: substance abuse. Many people are homeless because of previous or current addictions. Lost jobs, estranged family members, possessions sold to buy drugs, and they wind up down and out. Should a landlord be required to rent to this person? And to offer this person housing at below-market rates?

    Rents are high, yes. We need more housing stock, yes. But owners of apartment buildings or mobile home parks or single family residences held for rental may charge what the market will bear. And increasing wages means prices will go up too.

    Your suggestion that the federal or state government should pay to relocate Californians to another state with a lower cost of living and lower unemployment is a little simplistic. If people want to leave, by all means. Last I looked we weren’t stopping anyone from going. But not everyone wants to live in Des Moines or Willitson or other high-employment areas, and if they wanted to get there I think they probably could. Residents of other states certainly manage to get here without taxpayer assistance.

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