Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson convened service providers, clergy and community leaders at Ward AME Church on February 29th to gain community input on how to address challenges facing the homeless population in South Los Angeles. Councilmember Harris-Dawson was joined by Reverend Cager of WARD AME, Pastor Sauls of Holman Methodist and Veronica Lewis of SSG HOPICs.
Miguel Santana, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer and Phil Ansell, Director of the County’s Homelessness Initiative were also on hand to provide an overview of the City and County plan respectively.
The primary goals of the meeting were for community stakeholders to provide City leaders with strategic insight on how to provide more support to service providers, meet the unique needs of homeless people of color and create policies to bring more resources to the South L.A. community.
At the meeting, Councilmember Harris-Dawson released the report “Homelessness in South Los Angeles,” a 20-page position paper which provides a deep analysis of economic, housing and social policies that have led to the loss of a social safety net for homeless individuals.
The report also lays out policy recommendations for the City to reverse the upward trend of homelessness in South Los Angeles, which has been pervasive over the last few decades. Solutions included employment programs that connect residents with a living wage, increased and improved reentry services, more housing options for people of all incomes and supportive services for individuals with mental illness or drug addiction.
“The deep concentration of homeless individuals in South Los Angeles should be the cause of a public outcry as it’s an injustice that so many people of color slip into homelessness due to the systemic, structural challenges embedded in our society,” said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “It’s crucial that we involve the community to confront the homelessness crisis head on and use our moral authority to demand a more humane existence for all Angelenos.”
According to the report, African-Americans are a vulnerable subset of the population as they make up 9% of the population in Los Angeles, but represent 47% of the homeless population. South L.A. and Skid Row combined, make up 40% of the homeless population in the City of Los Angeles, and 53% of those homeless individuals are African-Americans.
The Homelessness in South Los Angeles report points to discriminatory policies, the loss of affordable housing units, the rise in unemployment, mass incarceration, and a lack of access to mental health services and drug abuse treatment programs as important elements of poverty and antecedents to homelessness.
The report was released on the heels of the Los Angeles City Council’s Comprehensive Homelessness Strategy, which was released in January and details 60 strategies to combat homelessness and provide funding to increase the city’s housing stock.