Panel discussion at Ebell Theater
Since her inauguration as Los Angeles Mayor, Karen Bass’s focus has been to solve the homelessness problem plaguing L.A. She has created the Inside Safe initiative while supporting and donating to other programs and nonprofit organizations for overall better foundational support of helping people off the street.
Last week, Bass and other women experts held a panel at the Wilshire Ebell Theater to discuss homelessness in L.A. and steps to help alleviate the crisis plaguing the city.
“The people on the streets are very vulnerable and at their lowest. We see a lot of men, women, and kids who are all homeless for different reasons,” said Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, CEO of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). “Some people there deal with mental health problems, drug addiction, fallen on hard times, or faced a housing issue all their life and were never given the support needed to make it out.”
According to the L.A. County website, there are a reported 69,144 homeless people; of that number, 25% of individuals living on the streets or in shelters have serious mental illnesses. Also, according to the Police department, 4,500 homeless people have been diagnosed with psychotic spectrum disorder, while another 31% of homeless people were active users of methamphetamine.
“This data, among others, led me to declare a state of emergency because how can you look at the crisis, the people, and the growing rate of mortality and think it’s not an emergency,” Bass said. “To me, it was a humanitarian crisis, as I watched it develop and associate it with the crack epidemic. It’s a combination of bad policies done in the ‘90s that criminalized health issues and economic conditions and, instead of politicians finding a solution to the issue, they generalized and criminalized everybody.”
Bass said that’s where Los Angeles was before she was elected and was the reason behind her running for Mayor.
“I felt like we were heading to deja vu because the city was angry and people were demoralized, and the stage was set for people to be generalized and criminalized again,” Bass said in voicing her concern over the Supreme Court’s decision on the Bosie case. The Martin vs Bosie case involved six homeless people suing Bosie for their anti-camping ordinances. The plaintiffs won the case and overturned the law. But officials in Idaho and the Supreme Court have petitioned to have the law reinstated.
Bass has put several procedures in place to get people inside, which include pathway homes, interim housing, time-limited housing subsidies, permanent supportive housing, and enriched residential care. With these procedures in place, Bass moved 17,000 people into the different residential options she had created in the last nine months. She credits the work of all the organizations involved and the City of Los Angeles personnel for helping her execute her Inside Safe initiative. Bass plans to use unoccupied buildings and renters vouchers to allow homeless people to live in apartments that are vacated.