Erica Tobin
Erica Tobin

What is the solution to homelessness? Is it possible to end homelessness? I believe that we can end and prevent homelessness, but it can’t and won’t be done overnight. However, it can begin with us voting Yes on Proposition HHH November 8, 2016. In Los Angeles, Homeless Services Authority’s (LASHA) recent 2016 homeless count reported that the total estimated number of people experiencing homelessness was 46,874, an overall increase of 2,515 people from 2015. In the city of Los Angeles, they reported an 11% increase in total homelessness. I didn’t write this to bore you with statistics because I think we get enough of those on a regular basis without it being explained what it all means.

We don’t need statistics when we can drive under the freeway or over a bridge in Los Angeles and see encampments lined up in a row with baskets and trash. We don’t need statistics when getting on and off a freeway to see a homeless veteran or a woman holding a sign stating she has kids and needs money. Sure we try to be good citizens and give a dollar or two, but that won’t provide shelter for her and her family. Are we really helping then? What can we do without having to house them ourselves?

Proposition HHH is proposing up to $1,200,000,000 in bonds to provide supportive housing which includes assistance in health care, mental health, substance abuse treatment, education and job training to the homeless. It will also provide temporary shelter and affordable housing. You’re probably asking yourself is it possible? If so, where are the results?

I have been an outreach case worker for 5 ½ years now working with the chronically homeless and the mentally ill at a non-profit organization in the West Los Angeles Area. Over these past 5 years I have participated in 4 of the LASHA homeless counts. I also volunteer on the hotline at a domestic violence shelter. Based on personal experience, I can tell you that with needed resources that Proposition HHH is going to provide, if passed, a major supportive role in getting individuals and families off the street. I have clients now who have just recently been housed for the past 2 months along with clients who have been housed for over 4 years. We have housed them and have been able to provide mental health, medical and substance abuse resources that have helped them sustain their permanent housing. The downside for me and my colleagues is that for every person or family we house, another homeless family or individual walks into our drop-in center desperately needing housing or at least temporary shelter. Only to be told ‘sorry, the only available shelter is downtown L.A. (Skid row), you have to stand in line and hope they have enough beds for you and your children’ or ‘sorry, all the transitional shelters are full and only have waiting lists’. Even worse, have to tell a woman fleeing from domestic violence that there is no room available for her or her children.

It is impossible to end homelessness without supportive shelters and affordable housing. It is impossible to end homelessness without medical, mental health, substance abuse and job employment resources. Opposition argues that Proposition HHH will not only increase homelessness, but will keep chronically homeless, homeless. Where are their facts? Are any of them social workers or case workers who work with the homeless? I know that the more resources that are provided to the homeless, the more successful I can be in assisting my clients with getting off the streets. We all have to ask ourselves when we go into our voting booths this November; how will the present and future homeless individuals and families be helped if I vote No on Proposition HHH?

Erica Tobin is an outreach worker at a Non-profit organization and has been working with the chronically homeless and mentally ill population for 5 1/2 years.