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Los Angeles Is Spending Over $1 Billion To House the Homeless. It's Failing.

Published: December 7, 2019
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Source: reason.com

More than 2,500 homeless individuals sleep on the streets of the 53-square-block Skid Row area in downtown Los Angeles.

"Skid row is the worst manmade disaster in the United States. There's human waste on the sidewalks. There's all kinds of disease," says Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Skid Row's Union Rescue Mission, the nation's largest private homeless shelter. He lost his leg to staph infection he contracted while serving the homeless on Skid Row.

But California's homelessness crisis extends far beyond Skid Row and Los Angeles. The state's homeless population has jumped more than 12 percent in the last five years, and it's part of a national crisis.

The city's particular predicament is notable for its sheer scale. Bales says that Los Angeles, which has the largest unsheltered homeless population in America, has failed to deal with what's become a public health and humanitarian crisis. More than 1,000 homeless people died on the streets of Los Angeles County last year, according to government figures.

In 2016, Los Angeles voters approved a referendum to spend more than $1.2 billion dollars building new housing for the homeless. It's part of a plan championed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who declined our interview request.

The city set a target in 2016 of building 10,000 new housing units within a decade, but just one percent of those apartments will be ready for occupancy by the end of 2019.

"It's going to be too late when they get through spending the money," says Jimmy Anderson, who's lived on Skid Row for 40 years and currently sleeps at Union Rescue Mission. "There's going to be triple the homeless who're out here now."

Building in California isn't easy.

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