Homeless beggar man sitting outdoors in city asking for money donation.

Editor:

 

Los Angeles, once known as the City of Angels, the city of hopes and dreams, has now become the city of despair and hopelessness.

I’ve been living here for over 10 years, and in the last three years I’ve witnessed this city steadily falling apart. One could blame the recent events on the COVID-19 crisis, but the problems began long before that.

In the last three years there has been a sharp increase of the homeless population on the streets. Years ago, they lived in mainly in Skid Row. Back then, the few homeless venturing out in other parts of town were mostly veterans, sitting in front of stores or by freeway exits. About three years ago, I could suddenly see them in areas like West Hollywood and many other parts of town.

Then the pandemic hit in March of this year. It put thousands of people out of work. Not all of them received the help they needed, and as a result of that, many more ended up on the streets. But lately, in the last couple of months, this number has drastically increased. There are rarely any blocks in town without some tents lined up. Most of the underpasses have become large tent cities. This new population of homeless is largely mentally ill or visibly addicted to drugs. You can see them at gas stations, yelling at customers who are afraid to go to the pump, wandering down the street yelling and at the Venice boardwalk, which is now covered in tents, and in many other areas all across town. They also live in abandoned cars that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, and it makes me wonder who put them there in the first place. It’s also pretty obvious that someone supplied them with tents, as a lot of these tent cities are identical and appear to be brand new.

It’s been reported that the city released low-level inmates and even the low-level mentally ill from their facilities due to COVID outbreaks. That raises the question how that happened in the first place. Shouldn’t they have been safer there? This action might have solved the health crisis in these facilities, but have you considered what it is doing to the city, Mr. Mayor?

When it’s dark outside, the city turns into a ghost town, with the residents home due to the consequences of the pandemic and the homeless wandering down the streets. It has become very unsafe to be outside, and if the police are called they won’t do anything about it, even if a homeless person is doing something suspicious on private property. I’ve witnessed this firsthand.

The local government seems to ignore that this situation also creates a massive sanitary problem. With an increased level of garbage left on the streets virtually everywhere, it is only a matter of time before rats and other pests increase and spread all over the city. This is creating a huge health hazard. And secondary, how exactly is having all these people out on the streets helping to contain the spread of COVID-19?

You’ve allowed big developers to build these upper-scale housing facilities everywhere in town over last four, five years. And even while we were all placed on a stay-at-home order, these construction sites kept working and, apparently, they were considered an “essential business.” I wonder why. It raises the question who exactly will benefit from this. 

These new housing units go for renting prices only the wealthiest can afford, while the lower middle class and below are stuck in their old places because they can’t afford to move. As a result of that, some homeowners are taking advantage of that by letting their rental units fall apart, well aware of the fact that tenants have to stay no matter how bad the condition of their apartment is. 

I know plenty of renters who live with mold, holes in their walls, leaking pipes, broken electrical outlets and other hazards. If they sue their landlords, they end up getting paid off with little money and an order to vacate the property. All of that is done with the intention to rent out these units for a significantly higher rent price, to match the market these newer rentals go for. That was the cause of the initial homeless crisis in the first place.

So, what is the purpose for all these actions? Is it meant to drive all lower-income residents out of Los Angeles, to turn it into another San Francisco where the poverty level is now around $100K?

Just consider this: In New York, many residents have left already after the city was struck hard by COVID-19, and we have yet to see what the long-term consequences will be. If this was, in fact, the plan (to drive the lower-income residents out) there might be nothing left to build on. Furthermore, I would like to point out that it is also extremely inhumane to put all these people out on the street, and it paints quite a different picture than the one you portray on TV. No one should live on the street, not under normal circumstances and certainly not while we deal with COVID-19. California has the fifth-largest economy in the world; there is no excuse for that. There are plenty of empty properties that could be used to provide housing for the homeless.

It was the diversity that made this city unique that gave it a certain flair. With these new, highly questionable actions, this city will lose its character and identity.

Is this how you want to be remembered after your term as mayor ends in 2022? Your predecessor left office with a bad aftertaste. What do you want your legacy to be?

 

Silke Sorenson