- advertisement -
Posted under: News

Los Angeles Struggling To Combat Racial Disparities Among City’s Rising Homeless Population

A series of stories in the Los Angeles Times have revealed the stark racial disparities in the city's homeless population.

A series of profiles in the Los Angeles Times over the last month has highlighted how intricately tied homelessness is to racism.

The story mentions that Black people represent just 9% of Los Angeles County's population but 40% of the city's homeless population. The stark racial disparities found in the city's homeless populations have forced the city to grapple with a very long history of racism and discrimination. 

In December, the city released a 100-page report on the Black homeless community in Los Angeles, finding that racism was pervasive in so many different ways. 

"A theme that cut across the committee’s work was the acknowledgment that racism has contributed to, and remains intertwined with, homelessness. As such, ending homelessness will require a collective commitment to dismantling racism and addressing racial disparities, and sustained support from funders, policymakers, mainstream systems of care, service providers, and community partners," the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority wrote in their report. 

In June, The Times reported the city’s homeless population had increased by 16%. 

"The persistent overrepresentation of Black people among the population experiencing homelessness is a troubling reality across the United States, and Los Angeles is no exception" the report added. 

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times highlighted a group of Black people living in tents under the Ronald Reagan Freeway. Many of the people reporter Gale Holland spoke with grew up in middle-class families in the Pacoima neighborhood.

Families that had built a life in the neighborhood were ripped apart by mass incarceration, closing factories, low wages and racist redlining laws that forced out many residents. 

According to the Times, the Black population in Pacoima fell from 75% in the 1970s to 10% just 20 years later.

"The mounting affordable housing crisis in the state and in the Los Angeles region, paired with persistently low, stagnant, and declining wages, exacerbates homelessness and particularly affects Black people. The interconnectedness of incarceration and homelessness creates a revolving door that only serves to make the plight of homelessness more challenging and complex. Black people experiencing homelessness have disproportionately high rates of child welfare system involvement," the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said in their report. 

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimated there were about 20,960 sheltered and unsheltered Black people experiencing homelessness in the city.

The city has tried to throw money at the problem with little impact, proving the effects of racism need to be addressed holistically.

Efforts to simply put people in housing also failed due to other societal factors.

"The quality of interim housing varies across facilities, and for some, living in a shelter can be a traumatizing or re-traumatizing experience," the report said.

"Over the past two decades, Black homeownership has declined at nearly five times the rate of White homeownership, according to a study by the Urban Institute. The same study found that, while homeownership rates have increased for every other group over the past 50 years, Black homeownership has fallen to levels similar to those before the passage of the Fair Housing Act," the report added.

Beatrice Hart, a 53-year-old woman living in the tent community under the Ronald Reagan Freeway, told The Los Angeles Times that despite all the nice words found in the report, the city was still trying to remove them from the area by force. 

The city tried to oust the tent city residents in July, only backing off when a rights group sued. The Supreme Court is currently mulling whether to hear a case that would decide whether criminalizing sleeping on the street was unconstitutional.

“We’ve been here three years and all of a sudden, it’s madness,” Hart said.

She said a homeless advocacy group helped her find housing in a nearby neighborhood, but she comes back to the freeway to see her friends. She spent years with them and called herself the "den mother."

“We all grew up together. Our parents passed and the houses got sold. Where are we all going to go? We live here,” Hart added.

The report outlined 67 concrete moves the city can make to help reduce the homeless Black population, which included changes to housing and hiring laws. 

Those who spoke to The Los Angeles Times said more needed to be done at a faster pace to truly address the problem. Activist Suzette Shaw, who was a member of the committee that created the Black homelessness report, told the Los Angeles Times that Black people are constantly shamed and demeaned for their homelessness.

“The story of the debacle of the Black middle class has been taken out of conversation and the onus is on the pathology of the individual. Workforce redlining, housing redlining have systemically displaced us,” Shaw said. 

- advertisement -