Los Angeles’ Rising Homeless Problem

There are 53,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. Out of those 53,000, over 9,000 of them became homeless in the last year (“The State of Homeless”). This rising homeless problem takes place on a global level but needs to be dealt with at a local level. Living in a city such as Los Angeles, where taxes are higher than most of America, it is disappointing to see so many homeless people on the streets. Homeless make shelters all around the city, whether it is under a freeway or in an alleyway. Bill Holland says, “They have become so common as to become a part of the landscape, of no more importance than the wall of a building they lean against, or the freeway overpass that serves as their bedroom ceiling.” (Holland). It is disturbing to see the lack of empathy many have for the people in our neighborhood. To help the homeless situation, we should improve our mental institutions and encourage cohousing for people at risk of becoming homeless; taking action on these two things will lower the homeless population by preventing many from becoming homeless in the first place and at the same time, improving our community by reducing minor crimes and filth produced by the homeless.

Over one-fifth of the homeless population is recorded to suffer from some form of severe mental illness (Holland). Lack of proper care for these illnesses is what subsequently leads many of these people to turn to live on the streets. In the 1950s America had a much better mental healthcare system. Tom Holland writes, “According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the leading causes of homelessness are as follows: The change in the mental health systems since the 1950s, a shift towards, ‘community-based treatment of mentally ill rather than long-term commitment to institution.” (Holland). From the fact that in the 1950s the government had a working, long-term commitment institution, it comes to show us that improving our mental institutions by making a switchback isn’t out of our government’s reach. By aiding people with proper mental help, the homeless population will decrease and inherently cut-back the problems homelessness brings forth, like crime and filth in the community. The homeless population decreased to very few individuals in the mid-1900s. Rossi claims, “In the 1950s and 1960s homelessness declined to the point that researchers were predicting its virtual disappearance in the 1970s. Instead, in the 1980s, homelessness increased rapidly and drastically changed in composition.” (Rossi). Although changing our mental institutions to a more communal-based treatment is not the only reason the homeless population spiked up in the 1980s, it was a big factor in the decline of homeless in the 1950s and 60s. Many think that homeless will always be around, but the second half of the mid-1900s shows you that it is possible to greatly decrease the numbers and that homelessness is not a given of society. Taking steps, like enhancing mental institutions, will reduce the homeless population and will improve the entire community.

The one thing better than helping the homeless to get on their feet is to help prevent other people from getting into that position in the first place; encouraging cohousing is one step that can be taken to prevent people in tough situations from becoming homeless. Cohousing is beneficial to all sorts of people. Smith writes, “Variously called independent living, transitional housing, shared housing or sober living, the homes serve many populations: the aged, disabled, mentally ill and recovering alcoholics. They typically place six to more than a dozen tenants in single-family homes.” (Smith). The disabled, mentally ill, and alcoholics are a major percent of the homeless population. Without cohousing, many of the people who use the cohousing would become homeless. Most people are still uncomfortable with the idea of cohousing but it is better than being homeless. Studies find that twenty-three percent of the homeless population is families with children. In one incident, a single mother having a tough time raising her child put an ad in a paper to find other single moms to share housing and the response surprised her. Eldimire illustrates:

As a new single mom I felt lonely and doubtful about raising my son on my own,’ says Boss. ‘Where was my tribe, my village?’Boss put out an ad in a local paper for another single mum to share a home with. When 18 women responded she knew she was onto something. The pooled resources and emotional support that came from living with another single mother was something that mums were craving – and, throughout the past two decades, she says that hundreds of thousands of mothers have signed up on the site to find a housing match, including Emily Blake.

Eldemire, summer. “Could the increasing prevalence of co-living arrangements for single mothers help provide a better environment for kids – and mums?”

Although not all 18 single moms were on the brink of becoming homeless, sharing houses would help put them in a stronger financial situation. Emily Blake, whose name was mentioned at the end of the quote, slept in a friend’s house for months because she couldn’t afford housing; by cohousing, she was able to move out of her friend’s house and afford her own place. Similar to how it helped Emily, Cohousing can help many others who are on the brink of becoming homeless.

By updating our mental help facilities and promoting cohousing, we can help prevent many people from becoming homeless. This will not only benefit them but also the community because a decreased homeless population will inherently decrease problems the homeless bring like dirty streets and safety risks. The homeless population is only going to grow if actions are not taken. Many solutions to the homeless problem require a lot of additional money and are why it is hard to take action. Updating existing mental institutions, whose funds are separate from homeless funds, and encouraging cohousing are much more cost-efficient in fixing the homeless problem. Many people’s reaction to the homeless is that they are creating waste, but if they actually sat and knew the stories behind each person they would never judge anyone before they got to meet them again. The homeless problem is a societal issue, and it is each individual’s responsibility to help with the homeless problem.

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