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?
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.”
“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.
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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