In a city as prosperous as Los Angeles, and a state as wealthy as California, homelessness is a moral crisis that will define this region’s civic legacy for future generations. According to the annual homeless point-in-time count, every night in Los Angeles, more than 41,000 individuals are without a home.
Confronting this growing crisis is not only one of our highest priorities, it is our most enduring civic commitment. Together with nonprofit service providers and other partners, using evidence-based practices, street-based outreach and engagement teams, new safe interim and affordable housing and a full spectrum of supportive services we have housed more than 22,000 people in the region since 2019.
But despite these great strides, the homeless population continues to rise. The forces of poverty and the realities of the housing and employment markets are such that for every 207 individuals that exited homelessness every day in 2019, another 227 became homeless - every day. COVID-19 will surely make this problem worse.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has said, “God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty”. We will not live with the fact that some of our fellow Angelenos will be consigned to a life in the streets. My commitment is to building common cause and collective action to put in place a legislative, administrative, and budgetary framework that provides for a Right to Housing. So that we are bringing everyone experiencing homelessness indoors with resolve and urgency.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a health and economic crisis of enormous scale and human impact. In its wake, businesses and non-essential services have sustained significant financial damage. The same social and economic determinants that have driven health disparities for generations – such as access to food, housing, education and health services – have exacerbated inequitable access to prevention, testing, and treatment resources. And our city’s homeless population is particularly vulnerable to the challenges of this virus.
Our emergency response to this crisis requires that not only do we work to lay the groundwork for lasting institutional equitable reform, but prioritize the communities and neighborhoods most affected by this virus. The tragedy and turmoil wrought by this pandemic cannot be overstated, so we will work tirelessly to help those affected recover and emerge stronger and more resilient.
So far, over the course of this pandemic, working with Health Services and Fire Departments to provide testing and treatment in medically underserved areas, and St. John’s Well Child and Family Center to dispatch mobile testing units to churches, grocery stores, community organizations, skilled nursing facilities, and other locations, resources have been distributed to areas of critical need. More than 180,000 masks have been donated to essential workers – most of which delivered personally to healthcare workers, firefighters, grocery store clerks, public defenders, and street outreach teams helping the homeless.
Equity: Establishing an Anti-Racist Agenda
Equity comes from the idea of moral equality. The idea that in the design of policy and programs, while we are all created equal, understanding the context of history that has contributed to a community’s struggles is instrumental in building a future worthy of their courage and their ambitions. It means actively working to counteract policies that were put into place and led to centuries of unchecked structural discrimination.
Access to opportunity is central to a vision for advancing an equitable system and establishing an antiracist Los Angeles. This agenda is centered on the actions and outcomes that will produce real systemic change, improved educational outcomes, increased housing and housing stability, meaningful employment opportunities and an equitable and fair criminal justice system. Our work is to challenge vested interests, speak for people who are historically excluded and ignored systematically in making policy and in turn inspire Los Angeles to set the national standard and become a leader on dismantling racism, gender inequity, and other forms of structural discrimination.
Economic development must be rooted in the belief that all individuals regardless of their station in life should have access to health, wellbeing, justice and opportunity. Fostering the conditions that create the circumstances where these attributes can flourish requires not just a desire to do so, but creating an actionable strategy. Seizing on the role development can play in harnessing the economic strength of a community to create jobs and develop a voice to advocate for their own wellbeing, Councilmember Ridley-Thomas will focus on the adoption of new City programs and policies designed to expand business and career opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
A focus on high-growth industry sectors, including Bioscience, Film and Digital Media, Health Care Services, Construction and Manufacturing has potential to put the District and the city on an upward trajectory even in the face of economic headwinds. As a result of the introduction of several career pathway programs such as Careers for a Cause Job Training Program, LA Emergency Medical Technician program, and Bio-Flex participants and District residents are being prepared to break through barriers to employment in living wage careers.
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