A few nights ago, I slept on the streets of Watts. This is the second time I’ve slept on the streets with my homeless brothers and sisters in the Los Angeles area, the first time was in Wilmington. Each time I do this it gives me the strength to continue to fight for this amazing but often overlooked community.
I met some incredible people in Watts, but it was Mr. Green who stood out the most. He is a homeless Navy veteran who’s been living on the streets of Watts for the past nine and a half years, sleeping at a local park each and every night. He grew up in Watts and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He is now in his mid-60s and has adapted to this unfortunate way of life. He also shared with me that he has been in a mental hospital three different times and is finally taking medicine to help with his mental illness.
Creating more access to services is a step in the right direction to help improve the current crisis of homelessness. I want to thank Mr. Green for staying with me that night and sharing his story. The homeless crisis needs to be addressed because it affects all those living in Los Angeles. We should have a sense of responsibly to help our homeless population find resources to provide stability and put them on track for a better life.
Measure HHH, the Homelessness Reduction and Prevention Housing, and Facilities Bond Issue, which passed in the City of Los Angeles last November, is focused on building housing for chronically homeless people. This property tax bond will fund the creation of 10,000 low income housing units. Unfortunately, it still does not solve the problem of homelessness in Los Angeles, but it is a critical step forward. Measure H will work in conjunction with Measure HHH, with each adopting a different but complimentary strategy to combat homelessness.
Measure H, also known as the “Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness,” will be on the March 7 ballot. This measure seeks to institute a quarter-cent county wide sales tax to pay for services that benefit homeless individuals. The average consumer will pay a little more than a dollar a month to provide life altering programs to those in need. Services include mental health, job training, substance abuse treatment, emergency and affordable housing, prevention and support services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, and many more. If passed by a two-thirds majority vote, this tax will last for 10 years. It is estimated to generate $355 million a year for these programs which are vital to keeping people off the streets. Measure H will not solve the problem overnight but represents a large investment in an even larger problem.
Los Angeles has the second largest homeless population in the country and providing services to these individuals and families will help Los Angeles thrive as a whole. The Los Angeles Times estimates that 90 percent of homeless individuals and families that do not live on Skid Row are often people who might be your co-worker who can’t afford rent; your children’s classmate who’s parent might have lost their job; a friend or family member who might think couch suffering is not considered homelessness; or a college student who is living out of their car. These are all people we encounter daily that we usually don’t see as any different from ourselves, but who are in critical need of assistance to help get back on their feet.
We need to do everything we can to eradicate homelessness in Los Angeles County and across the State of California by identifying the strategic needs of this diverse population and providing more access to targeted programs and services. I will continue to stand up for those who stand at the margins of our society and I hope you will stand with me by voting YES on Measure H.
Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson represents the 64th Assembly District which includes Carson, Compton, Gardena, Harbor Gateway, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, South L.A., Torrance, Watts/Willowbrook and Wilmington. He is chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.