This week the Orange County Register posted an article that says one-third of the homeless in America reside in California. Their investigative reporter, Ethan Varian had some very eye-opening facts For instance, the Golden State doesn’t have the fastest growing homeless population of all the states— That honor belongs to New Hampshire which saw its homeless issue increase by 52%, New Mexico at 50% and New York and Colorado at 39%.
Across America we need low cost housing for, not just the unhoused, but most everyone. Years ago I had friends who chose to live in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties while working in San Diego. They preferred the hour long commute — in each direction — just so they could live in lower costing homes. Many working in Los Angeles did the same thing: move to San Berdoo and make the hour-plus commute twice a day.
Back in the 1990s many municipalities were criminalizing homelessness. Many of the unhoused in those places that criminalized being unhoused moved to California to escape the persecution and harassment they were facing in their hometowns and states. Here in California we don’t treat the unhoused like criminals just because they live on the street. Although in 2021 the City of Los Angeles used police action to clear the unhoused out Echo Park Lake, giving the people living thee 24 hours to leave.
Most of the park’s unhoused remain unhoused. The police arrested protestors who opposed the action to clear out the park — and they arrested some journalists as well. That must have given the LAPD and city government good press.
So what is a solution? Is there more than one strategy for constructively handling the unhoused with compassion? Probably. We need people in local and state government with the political will to get it done.
L.A.’s current mayor, Karen Bass, is working to give the unhoused permanent homes, moving them from temporary housing. Bass signed a deal with the federal government and several other communities to bring the unhoused living on the streets inside. Before Bass was mayor, before she was a strong US congresswoman, Karen Bass was a community organizer and activist. She is exactly the type of leader Los Angeles needs in the mayor’s chair. But will she be enough?
My family living in the Great Lakes region look at our winter temperatures and think we have it made. For them a mid-day temperature of 63°f looks pretty good when their mid-day temps barely get above freezing. But at night, the Southern California temperatures can dip down to the low-to-middle 30s. That’s cold in any state.
With the climate crisis picking up momentum exponentially it could be — will be — deadly for the unhoused. Finding the solutions to this housing issue is imperative.
Mayor Bass brought her sense of urgency when she took the oath of office to be the mayor in the City of Angels. If the Southern California counties can fix this unhoused problem, it can also tie in policies to fight the climate crisis. These two issues could be tackled simultaneously in some type of infrastructure bill. Create green affordable housing for the unhoused and the working poor while making the city and the surrounding communities less toxic and more dependent on renewable energy.
Saturday Morning, December 30, I spent a few hours at La Jolla Shores checking out the high surf. The entire beach was under water during high tide. The fact that streets at, or slightly below, sea level are flooded should fill anyone living on the coast with concern.
During this climate crisis Mother Earth is claiming more and more of what humans have created and doing this at an alarming speed because we, as a species, won’t do enough to at least slow down the quickening climate change. We cannot afford to be so frivolous with the climate. We only have one habitable planet — the one we are occupying now. We need to start changing our ways more urgently. The survival of all the species on this Earth depends on it.
That’s my message for the end of the year. Well, two messages. Treat the unhoused with more compassion and do more to slow down climate change.
Happy New Year.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.