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 SOLVING THE HOMELESS CRISIS SHOULD BE A PWUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
By Roderick Wright, California State Senator (Retired)
e can all agree outbreak of disease occurred near Los Angeles City homelessness or Hall recently that was traced back to the homeless being unhoused is population defecating in the street. Obviously, we a social, economic see more homelessness in lower income communities and health – there is just not much street camping on Rodeo problem. The Drive.
breakdown occurs when we try to solve the problem.
Nothing, particularly homelessness, is an easy issue to tackle, and if it were, it would have already been solved.
Let us also all agree, people sleeping on the street is unhealthy, unsightly, and inhumane. So now how do we solve this crisis? U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered the City of Los Angeles to do something about the homelessness situation faced by the City following a lawsuit brought by the Los Angeles Alliance for Human Rights. In Los Angeles County and most others, the Public Guardian is responsible for people unable to care for themselves, and this obligates our government to act. However, many of the homeless on our streets and in temporary shelters today have not attempted to obtain assistance.
What is unclear is to what extent a judge can order the City of Los Angeles to act? Can he, for example, take control of City expenditures? Could he make unilateral decisions as to how City funds are spent? Could he hold the City leaders in contempt and jail them? Could a judge layoff fire fighters or other city workers free-up funds needed to cover the cost of shelters? Could he confiscate private property and give it to homeless people? I remember when a Federal judge oversaw the California Department of Corrections and caused the release of many inmates.
A person’s political philosophy often colors what they see and whether societal problems should be solved by government at all. Clearly, we are all exposed to health risks by both the existence of a larger homeless population in and around housed members of our communities living in the areas. An
People on the right side of the political spectrum largely feel the problem is the fault of homeless people themselves and government should not reward irresponsible behavior. They often refer to the United Way or other charities, as opposed to government to resolve social problems. On the left, however, many people feel we should tax “the rich” and have the government build more housing and provide services for today’s homeless population.
As we saw with the recent passage of Proposition HHH, people in general are prepared to invest something. Voters approved more than $1.2 billion, but there is little to show as of yet. The question is do people have a “right” to something like housing, that actually costs money? If they do, who pays for it? I guess the other question is, when it costs over $600,000 to build a new housing unit in the City of Los Angeles, can we ever make a dent in solving the homeless problem when 60,000 over are unhoused today in the City? At $600,000 per unit, Proposition HHH only gets us 2,000 units for the 60,000 homeless on our streets today.
The City has tried to build homeless shelters and found that endeavor very expensive and inefficient. What if we tried a new approach? What if we created an incentive for private investors to risk private capital, build shelters, and make a profit? Many on the left will object to investors making a profit, even though it could provide a more efficient process and timely solution at a lower cost.
What does the provision of housing entail when you break it down? Land, labor, materials, entitlements, permit fees and, ultimately, return on investment. (ROI). In order to make housing more affordable, one or more of the elements in this equation have to be impacted. Another element in the equation is time
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