Tue, Jul

Madame Mayor, Homelessness Is NOT an Emergency


ACCORDING TO LIZ - I have been disturbed by the Mayor calling the homelessness crisis an emergency. An emergency is something unexpected – the proliferation of homeless Angelenos is a crisis brought about by policy decisions, here and elsewhere. Housing is not a commodity to be traded on Wall Street for profit. 

Housing should be a right for all. Safe, secure, housing. We have more than what is needed in the City but it is not affordable, and the underlying nexus of interrelated problems is getting worse due to other coexisting events. 

These include increased evictions, commodification of housing, influx of unsheltered people seeking warmer streets to sleep on, and the ever-escalating addiction issues besetting the country. In a pinch, put the homeless in the unoccupied units – almost 100,000 citywide, far more that the numbers of Angelenos living on the street. 

Or amend planning restrictions – with suitable care – to convert vacancies in office and industrial buildings to temporary and long term shared and single housing units. 

The “care” being to respect the rights of adjacent Angelenos, not provide developers more opportunities to profit off the public purse. 

And, instead of co-opting the Emergency Management Department to address the clean up of a generation of missed opportunities, the City needs to fully fund the EMD and direct them to deal with the real emergencies – which would also include housing the homeless on a temporary basis when there are floods, fire, cold and heat. 

The EMD’s focus must remain on saving the City, equally, for the good of all Angelenos. 

Their website states: 

The Los Angeles Emergency Management Department’s goals are guided by seven priorities:

  • Crisis Leadership: Serve to lead in times of emergency or disaster.
  • Consequence Management: Coordinate Citywide planning, response and recovery.
  • Resilience: Foster a culture of readiness across all of LA’s diverse communities and mitigate the effects of disaster.
  • Operational Readiness: Enhance EOC readiness via personnel, facilities and equipment.
  • Purposeful Partnerships: Form strategic alliances with public, private and community-based entities, and reimagine the Business Operations Center EOC to operationalize it for blue sky planning and strategic alliances.
  • Innovation: Leverage technology to meet emerging needs.
  • Fiscal Stewardship: Utilize available public and private funds to ensure a safer Los Angeles 

I don’t see homelessness or, indeed, to any specific consequences of poor policy decisions above. 

It is up to the Mayor to bifurcate the reduction of homeless on the streets of Los Angeles and the prevention of future calamities. 

Both will mean slowing the momentum of those who profit off on the current system and redirecting City energies to enact policies that will clarify and achieve such goals. 

While the people of Los Angeles will breathe a sigh of relief for appropriate funding of the EMD in this era of climate change and mounting calamities, taking on the powers that profit from putting the homeless on the streets will be a long and challenging battle involving incremental advances and soft-shoe policy shuffles to eventually emerge victorious. 

But it won’t work by pandering to the bottom lines of the profiteers. Engaging with them must be focused on reversing decades of policies pushed through by misinformed and corrupt politicians. 

Mayor Bass has a real advantage in her court – connections to the movers and shakers in Sacramento where she ended up as the first African-American woman to serve as a speaker of a state Assembly followed by twelve years in Washington, the last two as Chair of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. 

Furthermore, in addition to rising to the top in some very rough and tumble politics, she has a history of coalition building sharing the 2010 Profile in Courage Award for leadership with the ranking Republicans as well as State Senator Darrell Steinberg in their herculean efforts to resolve California’s multi-billion-dollar shortfall in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. 

Then she wrestled real estate developer and billionaire businessman Rick Caruso to win the City’s mayoral laurels. 

Madame Mayor, if there is any leader in America today that has the tenacity and determination to dive into the trenches and end the scourge of homelessness, it is you.  

You may be our last best hope to pull together the disparate elements from every level of government needed to overpower the greed of the Wall Street profiteers and their puppets in administrations everywhere. and forge the real and lasting policy changes necessary to eradicate the interconnected travesties of social and economic problems that have driven so many Americans from their homes. 

It won’t be easy. It can’t be easy. But every journey of a million miles begins with just one step. And then another and another. 

But as with any marathon, there will be plenty of Angelenos cheering the Mayor on if she picks up the baton to beat back homelessness here with powerful policy changes to revamp the face of our City prior to the Olympics. 

To show that Los Angeles can be on the cutting edge of urban humanitarianism as well as carrying the torch for change in other cities around the world.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions.  In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)