Rev. Eddie Anderson (File photo)


At a staff retreat of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in 1967 – Rev. Dr. Martin. Luther King, Jr. announced what would become known as “The Poor People’s Campaign.” A suggestion at the behest of fellow activist Marion Wright, The Poor People’s Campaign would be another battle in the war for equality in America’s second reconstruction. However, 57 years later, the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, leading to a confirmation that we are in fact two America’s. As a minister, and follower of the teachings of Dr. King I am concerned, but also hopeful.

As we commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it is imperative that we not only reflect on the dream he so eloquently shared with the world but also take concrete steps toward fulfilling it. Dr. King’s vision of a nation free from the shackles of poverty and inequality remains a call to action that resonates as strongly today as it did during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr King believed, as do I, that we should always dedicate ourselves to fighting poverty and not the poor.

While we celebrate the progress made in the fight against racial discrimination, it is disheartening to acknowledge that the battle against poverty and inequality persists. Dr. King recognized that true freedom is more than the absence of segregation – it is the presence of economic justice and equal opportunity for all. Yet, we live in a city that is ravaged by our own triplets of evil: homelessness, economic inequality, and a lack of true public safety.

Los Angeles, often associated with the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, also grapples with an alarming homelessness crisis that starkly contrasts with its affluent image. The challenges of homelessness in LA are multifaceted, reflecting a complex interplay of economic, social, and systemic factors. Examining the statistics provides a sobering glimpse into the scale of the issue and underscores the urgency for comprehensive solutions.

As of the latest available data, Los Angeles County is home to one of the largest homeless populations in the United States, with over 66,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night. The majority of these individuals find themselves living on the streets, in makeshift shelters, or in their vehicles. Disproportionately the rising numbers are Black and Latinx.  This staggering number highlights the scale of the challenge facing policymakers, social service providers, and the community at large.

One of the primary contributors to homelessness in LA is the scarcity and unaffordability of housing. The city faces an acute housing crisis, with skyrocketing rents and a shortage of affordable units. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the county needs an estimated 516,946 affordable rental units to meet the demand, a figure that remains elusive in the current housing market.

Economic factors further compound the issue, as many individuals experiencing homelessness struggle with unemployment or underemployment. In a city characterized by high living costs, the gap between wages and housing expenses leaves a significant portion of the population vulnerable to housing instability.

The homelessness crisis in LA also has a visible impact on public spaces. Encampments, concentrated in areas like Skid Row, serve as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by those without stable housing. These encampments not only reflect the dire living conditions of the homeless population but also contribute to public health and safety concerns.

As someone who has experienced homelessness, addressing the challenges of homelessness in Los Angeles requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort. As I have said, as a minister, as an organizer, and now as a candidate– collaborative efforts between government agencies, non-profit organizations, and the private sector are essential to create sustainable solutions.

While the statistics paint a disheartening picture, they also serve as a call to action. Homelessness in Los Angeles is not an insurmountable problem; it is a human crisis that demands compassion, innovation, and a collective commitment to creating a city where everyone has a place to call home. The Los Angeles Homelessness Council meets at the end of this month and  by acknowledging the challenges and working together, we can strive towards a Los Angeles that embodies the values of inclusivity, compassion, and support for all its residents and eliminate what has become the two Los Angeles.

Poverty, with its myriad manifestations, continues to plague our communities. The wealth gap between different racial and ethnic groups remains glaring, a stark reminder that economic disparity is deeply intertwined with the legacy of systemic racism. On this day, we must confront the uncomfortable truth that the dream of equality is still deferred for many.

Addressing poverty requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses economic policies, and social initiatives. Dr. King’s advocacy for economic justice underscores the importance of dismantling barriers that hinder access to economic opportunities. It is crucial to promote policies that uplift marginalized communities, providing pathways to economic stability and upward mobility.

Moreover, it is essential to address the systemic issues that perpetuate poverty and inequality. Criminal justice reform, healthcare access, and affordable housing initiatives are integral components of a comprehensive strategy to uplift those most vulnerable in our society. By dismantling discriminatory policies and advocating for systemic change, we can lay the groundwork for a more equitable future. Los Angeles does not have to be a nightmare for anyone, anymore.

On the evening before he died, Dr. King addressed a gathering at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. That evening he challenged us to “…develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”  He wanted us to be better, to organize more effectively, to dream bigger, to love harder, and I implore us to answer that call. I implore us to interrogate if we are truly loving our neighbors, and if we are not, then to take the extra step to do so.

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let us not only pay homage to the man who dreamt of a better world but actively work towards its realization. By focusing our efforts on eradicating poverty and inequality, we honor Dr. King’s legacy and contribute to the ongoing struggle for justice and equal opportunity. The dream is not a distant vision; it is a challenge beckoning us to confront the realities of our time and build a society where all individuals can thrive, unburdened by the chains of poverty and inequality.