California’s Homelessness Crisis is Spiraling Out of Control

June 24, 2019

California’s homelessness crisis is spiraling out of control. These mayors want to solve it with tiny homes, trailers, and floating apartments.

If you want to know how bad the homelessness crisis has gotten in California, just turn to 4 squares miles east of Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. The area, known as Skid Row, has long been inhabited by the city’s poorest residents. These days it resembles something akin to a nightmare.

Residents sleep in tents surrounded by discarded needles and feces, their belongings tucked into trash bags and shopping carts. Some shade themselves with tarps or use nearby light poles to connect to power. Others have contracted typhus from rats scurrying across the sidewalk. One resident was even found bathing in the water from a broken fire hydrant.

They are the visible face of California’s homeless, who abound not only in Los Angeles, but in other cities like San Jose and Stockton.

Read more: These 7 states have the worst homelessness crises in the US. They also have some of the most expensive housing.

The mayors of these cities are acutely aware of the problem, but their efforts to build more affordable housing have been hamstrung by zoning ordinances, construction costs, and lack of funding. On top of it all, they’ve had to face backlash from local residents, who complain that low-income neighbors might degrade their community’s character.

The mayors have weighed just about every solution, from converted motels to tiny trailers to floating apartment complexes. If they can prove the success of these ideas, they could provide a playbook for other mayors to tackle homelessness nationwide.

In LA, Mayor Garcetti is experimenting with backyard homes

“So many people want to do something personal” to solve the homelessness crisis, Garcetti said.

Less than 1% of California residents are homeless, but the state represents nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population. That’s because California is home to four of the top ten cities for homelessness in the country, including Los Angeles, a city with more than 36,000 homeless residents. This year alone, LA’s homeless population has risen by 16%.

“I think as people get to know their city’s residents that are experiencing homelessness, it’s not always the picture that they have,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “There are people with very little means, mental health issues, or addiction, but many of them are just the same working Angelenos.”

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