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Getting homeless off the streets the right way is a top priority in Los Angeles

Homelessness in South Los Angeles. (302661)
Homelessness in South Los Angeles. Credit: Our Weekly

The business community is looking for immediate solutions as the homeless crisis grows in South Los Angeles.

Dozens of community stakeholders joined 10th District Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas for a roundtable discussion about L.A.’s ‘A Right to Housing’ platform on June 30.  They wanted to know what is being done right now to curb homelessness in their communities.

“The best prescription to homelessness is home,” began Ridley-Thomas, who is the Chair of the Los Angeles City Council Homelessness and Poverty Committee.

Ridley-Thomas said he is working to champion the right to housing plan via four pillars: prevention, housing, street engagement, and support services.

However, concerned citizen Melinda Chuarn believes immediate solutions are needed so local businesses have a chance to thrive.

“I know that businesses are losing business partly due to the unhoused individuals directly in front of their front doors,” Chuarn commented. “How can they provide job opportunities when their business is shrinking? This is a bad and sad cycle.”

According to Ridley-Thomas, the City of Los Angeles has more than 41,000 homeless people living within city limits, of which 28,000 are unhoused. Plans call for offering interim and permanent housing and necessary support services for people to get back on their feet and thrive long-term. A major key in that initiative will be trained outreach workers from community-based organizations, which would help limit interactions with law enforcement.

Ridley-Thomas said it is important to note that there is no one solution to help individuals who have lost everything.  Ridley-Thomas also admits the status quo is insufficient.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Ridley-Thomas said he co-authored a proposal on June 29 that will do the following:

• Ensure that the City has the ability to keep the public right of way clear, in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, and to address any imminent public safety issue: and

• Allow the City, only after a resolution is passed by the City Council, location by location, and 14-day notice is provided, to prohibit encampments around “sensitive uses”, including schools, preschools, and daycare facilities, as well as in areas where there has been a threat to public safety due to fire, violent crime or other hazardous conditions.

To make this work, Ridley-Thomas said within 30 days, city leaders must implement a Street Engagement Strategy that connects unhoused individuals to suitable housing and services options before any enforcement action occurs.

City Council also wants to limit the use of law enforcement and adopt alternative strategies, including interventionists and conflict resolution experts to promote compliance.

“We’re leaning in, in an important way,” said Ridley-Thomas. “There is no greater threat to the health and dignity of our community than homelessness.”

Ridley-Thomas said it is important not to marginalize or stigmatize people experiencing homelessness. He added no one should go to jail because they have been sleeping on the street.

“We live in a state that has the fifth largest economy in the world… but at the same time abject poverty,” Ridley-Thomas said.

When it comes to homelessness, Ridley-Thomas said there are right and wrong ways to disrupt the status quo and improve conditions on the street in a way that prioritizes the humanity of our unhoused neighbors.

“We need to be the change we want to see,” Ridley-Thomas concluded.