By Mark Lipman
It is so, so easy to blame the victims. It is so easy to be self-righteous when you have a roof over your head and think that it can never happen to you. However, the fact we can’t escape from is that 13,000 people fall into homelessness every month in Los Angeles County, which completely undermines the narrative and sweeping generalizations that homeless people are just drug addicts and criminals, blurring the lines between status and behavior.
Yes, it is true that living on the streets can and very often does lead to many of the unsavory consequences which so many fearful, angry people point to when demonizing an entire population, detracting from the real causes of, and solutions to homelessness, pitting one group of struggling poor people against another group of even poorer people and serves only to protract the problems indefinitely as it gives our elected officials the cover to do nothing, while relying on the police to enforce a vicious circle of harassment and criminalization that gets us nowhere and only makes the problems worse.
We must always remember that the greatest crime there is, is the Crime of Poverty, which is being perpetrated on all of us, particularly by those entrusted the most to protect us.
What we need to look at – what no one at City Hall wants to see – is that homelessness is not only a social issue, but an economic issue created by decades of laws and policies designed to cater to the whims of Big Developers, Big Banks and the Wealthy Elite.
In the words of our current Poet Laureate, Luis J. Rodriguez, “It cost billions of dollars to keep us poor.”
Politicians wring their hands over where they’re going to come up with the paltry sum of $100 million, when all the money we need can be found in our city budget, which brings into question, “What exactly are our budget priorities?”
60% of our annual budget flows directly to the Los Angeles Police Department, to the tune of $2.9 Billion. It costs our city $65,000 per year for every person we put in jail – which is packed over-capacity – while 80% of our police time here in Venice (according to their own numbers) is spent dealing with issues of homelessness. Add to that the millions of dollars the city loses every year to pay out lawsuits that stem from civil rights abuses by these very same officers, who face no accountability for their actions when they beat up or kill someone, which is becoming a nearly daily occurrence. That is what I call a huge waste of tax-payer money, and makes me think that it’s about time to audit the LAPD.
If we want to end homelessness, it’s easy and it starts with how we spend our money. By simply allocating the proper funding into the needed public services first, we can eliminate all sorts of ills facing our society.
Our Mayor and City Council Members are all too eager to tell us what we can’t do, yet I say it is they who lack the proper imagination to handle the problems we face.
For a decade now, I’ve watched our elected officials talk around the problem of homelessness – even to the point where they usurp our language, making eloquent speeches, using the very same words we speak, yet when it comes to implementing the solutions our people and community organizations bring to the table they’re all deaf ears and excuses.
Why is that? Because fixing the problem would upset the status quo and the moneyed interests, to which they – as an indentured political class – are chained, putting the business plan of their campaign contributors over the well-being of our society-at-large.
For example, the 80% tax break – our city – championed by both Bill Rosendahl and Mike Bonin – gives to the Tech Industry to move into and take over our neighborhoods. That’s right, we give Welfare Subsidies to Google and Snapchat – millions of dollars taken directly out of our City Budget, which could go into a much needed housing fund. Instead, we pay these corporations to gentrify our communities and drive up our rents, so that our existing tenants get squeezed out of the affordable housing they once had and into homelessness.
That ain’t right, and we need to put a stop to that.
Maybe that’s why I keep hearing our City Council Members say, “We’re not in the housing business – that’s for the developers.” And I ask myself, “Why not?”
Why can we not, as a city and a government simply build and manage the required housing the people of our society need? It’s not like we’ve never done this before – all the infrastructure we need to do this is in place – and it’d create thousands of jobs in the process. It’s simply a matter of political will.
Why is it that our politicians just throw up their hands and surrender to the market our housing – the single most urgent need of our society today – giving developers, whose only motive is profit, the power over our lives and death?
Talking about developers like Tami Pardee*, whose business model is to make money off of evicting existing renters and throwing them onto the streets – directly adding to homelessness, while making hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
Not only is our city government not doing anything to stop them from ruining thousands of people’s lives – truly a criminal act – they, our elected officials, are aiding and abetting the Big Money interests, clearing the processes and procedural hurdles for these developers, with one rubber stamp after another, so that the business of creating homelessness can go on as usual. Not only is this unconscionable, it’s a complete dereliction of duty and a betrayal to every single one of us.
These politicians can talk all the nice words and platitudes they want, but what we need, what we demand, is concrete meaningful action to directly address the problem of homelessness with solutions – that being housing – permanent, stable, affordable housing – NOW!
* examples of cases: 414-426 Grand Ave. – 6 families evicted. Tami Pardee (property manager overseeing the evictions) – 2505 Oakwood Ave. – elderly disabled lady evicted.
Tami Pardee (property manager overseeing Ellis Act eviction) – 35 Clubhouse Ave. – several tenants in 8-unit building evicted
Tami Pardee (Realtor in charge of the “estopples” which were used to base the evictions by the new property owner.)