Be voices for the voiceless on the
issue of homelessness
Roughly 11.18% of the people living in Downtown Los Angeles are experiencing homelessness, according to the Neighborhood Data for Social Change.
When compared to the city of Los Angeles, where the rate is about 0.82%, the severity of the issue of homelessness within the Downtown Los Angeles community becomes clear. The devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health and financial stability for vulnerable people makes it reasonable to assume that this issue will continue to get worse.
Although a historic legislation effort has been signed to combat homelessness, it will take time before the plans take effect and people get access to these resources. Every day that passes risks greater harm for those who remain on the streets.
The cumulative impact of homelessness stretches far beyond the problems associated with simply lacking shelter, according to the CDC. People experiencing homelessness are at greater risk of alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, HIV infection and a host of other conditions.
I’ve seen with my own eyes how homelessness leads to further detrimental harm on one’s overall well-being while working in a skilled nursing facility for people with severe mental illness. One of my clients became homeless after her symptoms from schizophrenia made it impossible to maintain employment. Once she began living on the street, things quickly took a turn for the worse. A few members of her homeless encampment began forcibly injecting her with heroin, eventually fostering an addiction to maintain control over her and use her for prostitution.
Now she struggles from addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder in addition to schizophrenia and homelessness. Had she never experienced homelessness her road to recovery would be much less challenging, because she would not need to simultaneously recover from addiction and PTSD as well. This story is one of many, and it demonstrates how quickly one’s life can spiral downward once they lose access to safe shelter.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed the largest legislative effort in California’s history to address the state’s homeless crisis and strengthen mental health services. This is a huge step in the right direction, but one bill was left out that would offer immediate relief: AB-1372 Right to Temporary Shelter. Right to Temporary Shelter is a bill that proposes offering temporary shelter, mental health treatment, job training and resources for finding work to every person experiencing homelessness.
People cannot wait months, or potentially years, for Newsom’s legislative efforts to roll out relief. They need immediate aid. Providing the services from Right to Temporary Shelter will increase people’s quality of life now and make recovery less complicated by preventing any further regression from the accumulative effects of homelessness.
Although Right to Temporary Shelter does a lot of things right, it is not perfect. The major issue it has is that to qualify, a person needs to seek temporary housing for at least three consecutive days. This stipulation creates a barrier to entry that would prevent many people from getting help. Also, lots of people, homeless or not, are unaware of the resources that are available to help them, and even if they do know what is available, they may not know how to get access to these resources.
It is critical when implementing Right to Temporary Shelter that there are no stipulations and community outreach is provided to make people aware of what is offered and how they can enter the program.
I am calling on my fellow DTLA community members to stand up and be voices for the voiceless on the issue of homelessness. Together we can help the most vulnerable members of our community achieve greater well-being and avoid waiting for help, which would only serve to cause further harm. We can do this by reaching out to our State Assembly representative, Miguel Santiago (District Office: 320 W. Fourth Street, Room 1050 Los Angeles, 90013; 213-620-4646;
firstname.lastname@example.org), to voice concern for our neighbors experiencing homelessness and support Right to Temporary Shelter as a means to get them help as soon as possible.
We must advocate for amending the bill to remove any requirements for entry and provide community outreach to bring awareness about the program to ensure maximum participation. A successful vote to implement Right to Temporary Shelter will provide people with help sooner rather than later, when they might develop more serious issues or succumb to their circumstances. It will literally save lives.
Presidential slogans a slippery slope
Those who place confidence in slogans like Make America Great Again or Build Back Better risk embarrassment down the road, if American history is any indicator. Presidents are monopolists of political power. Sometimes they actually deliver on their seductive promises, but most times they deliver the opposite, if they feel like it.
James Polk ran on a slogan of “54-40 or fight.” This was a clear promise to unleash the might of a brand-new American imperial empire on the four winds. America, from the mid-1800s on, spread its skirts outward and reaped the benefits of influence and conquest like Rome of old.
A half-century later, Theodore Roosevelt reminded voters that what America could not produce at home we could grab by force from abroad. His philosophy was, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Another 50 years later, the nation heard, “Give ‘em hell, Harry.” Harry Truman then introduced the nation to the hell of unconstitutional president-declared wars, starting with the Korean War.
Often, the slogan makes a little bit of sense but a whole lot more nonsense. During a time of the Civil War in 1864, Abe Lincoln popularized the saying, “Don’t change horses midstream.” An electorate in a day of horse-mediated travel understood that the river current might tug so hard you might never get back on any horse at all.
That slogan became the mantra of presidents desperately unwilling to give up national power, even if it was un-American or unconstitutional to continue in office. Franklin Roosevelt used the same slogan in 1944 to successfully win his fourth presidential term and make him the first American ruler for life. Others after him, like George W. Bush, let the electorate know that because there was a savage and necessary war going on (that he started), why would they even think of changing leaders after only one term?
Over the course of our long, patriotic history led by macho presidents we also spent the flower of our youth on foreign soil with the end result of making dirty old rich men dirtier and richer, leaving the rest of the nation harassed and impoverished.
History has a habit of repeating itself. After a killer influenza epidemic and our first world war, a campaigning Warren G. Harding called for a “Return to normalcy.” Turns out Harding then introduced the American people to a different kind of “normal,” a level of political corruption that became the acceptable norm in the 20th century White House.
What more seductive sound could one hear than a promise to reduce the workday by a couple hours? Woodrow Wilson brayed, “Vote for 8 Hour Wilson.” I wonder if employers had a little say about that, too?
Very often, presidential candidates openly and scandalously promise what every American desperately needs and wants. Herbert Hoover promised “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Did he actually have the power to do that? George H.W. Bush yammered, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Then, of course, new taxes happened.
Ronald Reagan intoned the lyric, “It’s morning again in America,” forgetting to mention the new dawn he would create would move America from once being the greatest creditor nation in the world to, in his term, being the greatest debtor nation in the world. A dark morning indeed.
Most often, presidential promises just require a blind leap of faith. Mr. Trump’s team said, “Build the wall and crime will fall.” In 2020-21 crime leapt like a wildfire across America. But no matter, sounded like a done deal at the time.
Robert Kimball Shinkoskey