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Too Many Black Homeless People to Be a Priority for Mayor Bass


Photo by Gloria Zuurveen
LAPD officer, on Thursday, June 1, 2023, removing homeless Black man from off the street at 54th & Crenshaw.

The Southern Truth

By Gloria Zuurveen, Editor-in-Chief

LOS ANGELES – Recently Mayor Karen Bass along with Councilman Tim McOsker announced Mayor Bass’ Inside Safe initiative was underway in Harbor City. On the same day the announcement came to my email in the form of a press release after the fact, I was out on the street in Los Angeles taking pictures of the local community of Los Angeles, specifically, down the street from my office off 54th Street near the former Economic Development Department on the corner of Crenshaw Blvd.

It was a sad occasion to witness the homeless encampment where a Los Angeles policeman were ridding the street of an eyesore more than to get them inside of a home for safety. As I continued to drive around the city and even downtown, it was almost hard for me to keep the tears from falling down with all the Black homeless men I saw in tents on the streets near St. Julian and Town. It was horrible. When I asked the mayor in February on a Zoom call about what her plans were to focus on the high percentage of the Blacks who are homeless especially since Blacks are the lowest population in Los Angeles?

LAPD officer inspecting a homeless encampment on 54th Street & Crenshaw in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 1, 2023.Black homelessness is an epidemic even though Black people are the lowest in population yet the highest number of homeless people. Photo by Gloria Zuurveen

She said, “Gloria thanks for joining us. I mean in a way this is such a said statement to make. In a way I don’t have to focus on African Americans ok because Black folks are everywhere. I mean the tents in Venice there were a number of white folks who were homeless but plenty of Black folks. So Black folks are in these tents everywhere.”

Photo by Tyrone Cole of homeless disabled Black man in downtown L. A

“Of course when I was in the 8th District it was almost a hundred percent African Americans. So by focusing on the issue Gloria, I am focusing on Black folks with 30 percent of the people in the tents are Black folks. Surprisingly what I have not seen was a lot of Latinos and I think we just haven’t gotten there yet,” she added.

Harbor City as well as other cities are reaping the benefits of Mayor Bass’ Inside Safe initiative which is currently underway, however, it appears that Black homelessness is not a priority. Since 2017 PACE NEWS has been on the scene talking and writing about the disparity and the discrepancy of Black homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles.

Speaking with this homeless gentlemen who has been on the street now for 8 years and is originally from Washington, DC, said even after he would watch the security guards cars parked and would ask them to put in a good wood for him they never remembered him. He called Marion Berry’s name and he knew his son well he said. He has a story for why power that be has no interest in really helping the homeless because they would lose their jobs if the people are not homeless. Photo by  Gloria Zuurveen

Even the former Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA), Peter Lynn, gave a reason for the plight of Black homeless men, women and children. He said discrimination played a major role in the origins of the crisis.  He said, “There is a staggering over representation of Black people in homelessness and that is not based on poverty. That is based on structural and institutional racism.” Structural and institutional racism is what LAHSA’s former leadership Lynn called the problem in the high percentage of Blacks in homelessness yet our very own first Black woman mayor doesn’t call it as it. Not only did Lynn find that to be the case but it was also revealed in 2019 in a 115-page groundbreaking report released by LAHSA  that spells out in explicit detail how institutional racism stitched into the fabric of Los Angeles’ criminal justice, education, and healthcare systems, as well as discrimination in the job and housing markets, conspire to force black people to the street at a rate much higher than Angelenos of other races. Where roughly one in every 250 white residents are homeless, the rate for black residents is about one in 40. What happened to the LAHSA report on Black homelessness?

Now is a good time to dust it off and bring it back to the head of the line if Black people are to leave being homeless behind. This is a real  issues and it doesn’t seem to be an urgent priority to those who are in charge. What have the newly appointed LAHSA leader, Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, done to ensure that Black Homelessness is not just used to get billions in funds and then everybody takes a share and walk away like they don’t care. It is not fair.

Listen to what one LAHSA commissioner had to say about ending homelessness. “If you want to end homelessness, you have to end it for those groups that are disproportionately impacted,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority commissioner and chair of the special committee that authored the report. “What we want is a system that works for everyone. We learned through this process how the system is not working for everyone.” The report was the result of a year-long collaborative process by Waggoner and others on LAHSA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. The committee was modeled after another that reported on women and homelessness in Los Angeles. Its findings was based on extensive engagement with black Angelenos who are or have been homeless. While Inside Safe according to the release is a new, citywide, proactive housing-led strategy to bring people inside from tents and encampments, and to prevent encampments from returning, as I wrote in these pages previously about the diabolical way Black homeless is being prioritized, today, I say the same because quite frankly nothing has changed and this epidemic of Black homelessness stemming from failed public policies relating to over 400 years of slavery in these United States of America is festering and is near the boiling point of real tension that must be the center of all conversations of every politician, including Mayor Bass, who say they want to represent Black people in Los Angeles.

No politician should even be considered worthy of the Black vote if out of 8 percent of a population of people make up more than 40 percent of the homeless population.

With the recently signed budget it is imperative that the Black community can see the change in reference to Black homelessness especially since Mayor Bass’ first City budget includes an unprecedented $1.3 billion investment to confront the homelessness crisis, including $250 million for Inside Safe – the new citywide program to bring Angelenos inside and end street encampments.

“This budget reflects our values and invests in the most critical needs of our city,” said Mayor Karen Bass.

Let’s see if Black lives really matter to our first Black woman mayor in the City of Los Angeles.

The Southern Truth


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  1. Assata Umoja on June 6, 2023 at 11:06 am

    Thank you so much for this article. We have discussing this issue continuously. We must as you have written keep this sad epidemic of Black homeless before the politicians who say they care about it, particularly those who say they want to represent Black people.0’

  2. Assata Umoja on June 6, 2023 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for a great story inspiring us to keep the issue of Black Homelessness before, especially those who purport to represent Black people

  3. Tamara Lewis on June 6, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    Just like Moses said, When you get tired keep going.” Perseverance is natural to those who endure unusual hardships; Harriet Tubman displayed character by exhibiting fortitude through perilous times. We embrace our ancestors with pride and humility.

    Homelessness is not impossible to remedy. We can STOP with the excuses that lead to monuments of nothing!

    The plight of homelessness may appear to be overwhelming to many, but when your heart and soul is poured into effectuating CHANGE, you overcome all obstacles; despite the magnitude. When you look into the eyes of homeless babies, young men and women struggling to acquire basic human needs and resources, the fact their constitutional rights are compromised is a resounding basis to make homelessness a PRIORITY.

    To witness the unsanitary, deplorable and unsafe conditions which homelessness extends to our family is overwhelming! To address and resolve this major catastrophic issue, we do not have the benefit of being overwhelmed, but surely a civic duty to rectify the enormous plight with a kind heart, a strong mind, and a strategic plan.

    It is Mayor Karen Bass and all constituents as well as elected officials, citizens and society as a whole to make this dangerous and out of control state of homelessness a MAJOR PRIORITY with the intent to remove it at all cost! Yes, budgets allotted will be impacted and absorbed, but what greater accomplishment than to end the atrocious decay of a beautiful city as Los Angeles from the pits of homelessness.

    I solicit and call upon every able body to represent righteousness and yield to restoring Los Angeles and ridding homelessness. We cannot afford to be a
    bystander while others suffer greatly.

    I pledge to continue to STAND for the civil rights of the homeless; Afro- Americans who disproportionately comprise homeless statistics and veterans who truly deserve our loyalty!

    The overall state of homelessness is unfortunately merely reflected as a problem impacting the Black communities. Therefore, I am inclined to believe from a historical perspective that RACISM surely has raised its ugly head and is should certainly be factored in the homelessness equation. It’s a matter that society as a whole should aggressively address in order to aid the progression of eradicating homelessness in Los Angeles. Thus, establishing a platform indicative of the morals and character of the citizens of Los Angeles operating on one accord with healthy mindsets and shared core values.

    God Bless Los Angeles & Lift The Homeless
    Together We Will Give Light to L.A. Again!

    Tamara G. Lewis

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