The ABC's of Childish Policies for Addressing Homelessness

ALPERN AT LARGE--No need to belabor this point, because we see it every day:  LA’s homeless  numbers are getting worse. So while I am sure that I will be excoriated as a hater, a monster, a racist, and an unfeeling demon (regardless of the fact that I treat and offer free health care to the homeless and poor every day), let's go back to a language we can all understand:  the ABC's. 

A as in Hepatitis A:  It's become a statewide emergency; While not untreatable, it can put people in the hospital and even be fatal.  Mother Nature doesn't give a rip about social justice causes--in fact, she's a real witch.  But when any state or nation allows homelessness to rise and run rampant, infectious disease will inevitably follow. 

B as in Behavior:  Throw more money and resources and love at lawless behavior, and you get more of it.  We passed Measure H and HHH after demonstrating years to decades of poor spending habits and lousy records of truly helping the homeless.  So what could go wrong? Shocker--we have more, not fewer, homeless amongst us. 

C as in Childishness:  Children scream to "help the poor" and "help the environment" and "end homelessness", which is how children SHOULD be thinking ... with their hearts.  But adults might be motivated with their hearts yet realize they must think with their heads.  Not all homeless are the same, and some will need help but most need a combination of help but also RULES to re-establish their place in society. 

D as in Denying the Citizenry their rights.  Allowing people to live in tents and on the streets not only leads to more disease and crime, but it also denies those in the majority (who are overtaxed, exhausted, and working multiple jobs) of their rights.  Ridiculous and out-of-touch judges may make decrees, and Sacramento may disempower the working majority, but cities can fight back and do what's right to really, really, REALLY reduce the homeless amongst us. 

E as in Eliminating Roadblocks to Affordable Housing: The truth will set you free.  Affordable housing almost always means SENIOR affordable housing, STUDENT affordable housing, and WORKFORCE affordable housing.  When we create policies that reward small, appropriately-sized and sustainable affordable housing, and not gobs and gobs of gentrification, we'll get more affordable housing. 

F as in Forever demolishing the middle class:  By raising utility, taxes and other costs, the City of Los Angeles keeps smashing the middle class and promoting developments that were meant only for the wealthy while claiming it was for the poor.  City Hall is run by developers and professional liars.  This may infuriate the wealthier of the middle class, but the lower middle class is being run out of town.  And that's just not fair nor economically smart. 

G as in Good Policy.  Policy that demands responsibilities and rights for all of us.  Policy that states that if you are homeless with ties to the community, you will have to abide by the rules or leave.  Policy that states that those without ties to the community do NOT have to live here.  Policy that prevents this City of the Angels from being the homeless magnet from hell. 

H as in the road to hell.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, of course, but we need not continue down that road.  We can be smart as well as kind, and we can be focused on results as well as on good ideas that don't always turn out.  

We're doing this wrong, folks.  Some of it right, as with the veterans and the VA Medical Center ... but a lot of it is just wrong.  And looking at the proliferation of the homeless after we passed Measures H and HHH, even a child can figure that out.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)