Rethinking Homelessness in LA
In March, I was honored to co-chair a conference on Rethinking Homelessness in Los Angeles. The goal was to suggest new policies that could and should be deployed at all levels of government, and by non-profit organizations to solve homelessness – right now. My co-chair for the event was David P. Waite, a partner at the Los Angeles office of Cox Castle & Nicholson LLP.
Many speakers reinforced that we need to identify immediately available housing options for the homeless, because traditional solutions are too costly, take too long for communities to establish and many of the homeless either cannot qualify for the too few traditional options or get kicked out of them for noncompliance with rules they can’t hope to comply with in the first place.
Possibilities include allowing shared facilities that are legal and easy to establish, such as tiny homes, RV living arrangements, Quonset huts and any other option that will put a roof over peoples' heads. In this way, the otherwise homeless can have immediate, safe and suitable places to be - with basic toilet, shower, refrigeration, trash service, etc., all in a space where their social services needs are actually capable of being met. Otherwise, the only option available under our current, Sisyphean policy framework, are sidewalks, rights of way, “illegal” car/RV living on public streets and, of course, the most absurd of all: jail.
The conference also focused on legal and policy changes needed to serve the seriously mentally ill who end up and stay homeless because of the breakdown of the mental health system. Our biggest mental health institutions are jails and that is just wrong. Our jails can never provide a long-term solution to this problem, and cannot address it either economically or sustainably. In addition, we saw a brief glimpse of how this plays out, with a clip from Dr. Ken Rosenberg’s wonderful Sundance Film festival film “Bedlam”.
Conference speakers included: yours truly, Mike Alvidrez of the Skid Row Trust, Tristia Bauman of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher of the City of Las Vegas, Professor Steven J. Eagle from George Mason University, Richard K. Green of the Lusk Center for Real Estate, Professor Emeritus Gideon Kanner of the Loyola Law School, Nicole Martinez of Mesilla Valley Community of Home, Christina Miller from the City of Los Angeles, Cynthia Nagendra of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Dr. Jonathan E. Sherin from the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health, John Snook from the Treatment Advocacy Center, Dr. Ken Rosenberg, and Professor Emeritus David Wagner from the University of Southern Maine.