By Gloria Zuurveen, Editor-in-Chief
On June 2, 2023, my mother’s birthday, I know for sure it was because that was also the day I published on these front pages a piece entitled, “Too Many Black Homeless People To Be A Priority for Mayor Bass”.
It received an incredible amount of feedback.
I count it all joy for such reaction. After it was published about the plight of Black homelessness in Los Angeles although they are the least in population, Mayor Bass called a press briefing to give an update on the matter at City Hall on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Yours truly was in attendance.
Yes, I was in attendance; however, the issue of Black homelessness did not appear to have been met with the urgency I believe it requires during the briefing.
The briefing detailed and outlined some critical methodology and numbers referencing issues such as LAHSA Interim Housing, Inside Safe Update, Inside Safe-Challenges and Solutions, Vouchers and Permanent Housing. Strategies discussed included Declaration of Emergency, Cutting Red Tape, Unlocking Public Land, Whole of Government Approach and Tenant Protection as well as the Looking Forward plans.
Mayor Bass were joined by Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Ph.D., the CEO of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), to answer questions the press had about the actions taken so far to combat the problems of homelessness in the City of Los Angeles. While many of the questions were related to the Inside Program, one comment was made that the Weingart Center had received a sole-source contract to work collaboratively to combat homelessness. It was after this comment that I spoke up and said, “You say a sole-source contract for Weingart, that’s excellent, but in that sole-source contract for Weingart, what about these smaller community-based people that have rooms that are vacant in their transitional living homes that I’ve been talking to and they are not getting any response from LAHSA in reference to their putting in applications and they’re getting a whole lot of flak and not getting those rooms filled but yet you have a sole-source contract when we have all these other community based organizations and transitional living homes that are not being taken care of when we could try to help out in the local communities by starting to use these homes more so than what they are being used for thank you?”
Dr. Kellum said in response to the question, “I totally agree with you it they are underutilized resources that’s critically important in area you know is a crisis. I was recently in SPA 6 where there are a lot of small providers who are desperate to help and I met with many of them and we are devising a plan to be able to access those rooms and to ensure that those resources are utilized. So to be continued please stay with me and I can meet with you after to tell you exactly what those plans are. Those providers are ready and they need to have the referral and we’re going to try and connect them so they can have the revenue they need.”
One provider I spoke with say she has 14 beds available and that she has been going to the SPA 6 meetings that Dr. Kellum referenced that she attended. At the time of the meeting at the end of May, the provider said she told Dr. Kellum she had 12 beds and since then in June she is back at 14 vacant beds. She said that Dr. Kellum has been having listening sections at HOPICS, Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System which is the leading homeless service agency in Service Planning Area 6, but she has not receive one cent from LAHSA in the five years she has been operating a sober living home. She say she has been begging and going to meeting after meeting but haven’t received a dime. She say she has all of the emails from her transactions showing how hard she has been fighting to get help to stop the bleeding issue of homelessness but it sadden her to see so many Black people in need of her services but she can’t even get funds from the billions of dollars available. She has the capacity, this is her fifth year in business, but she doesn’t seem to be able to get pass all the layers of bureaucracy. She say she is not given up. SPA 6 serves areas that include: Baldwin Hills, Compton, Crenshaw, Exposition Park, Florence, Gramercy Park, Hyde Park, Jefferson Park, Ladera Heights, Leimert Park, Lynwood, Paramount, Rosewood, South Los Angeles, South Central, South Park, University Park, Vermont, Watts, West Adams, Willowbrook, Windsor Hills. These are the neighborhoods with the highest percentage of Black people.
All the data presented on Tuesday were presented well with graphics and all including the accomplishment of Mayor Bass whereby in her first 100 days 8,726 people were moved inside and 14,381 people were brought inside during Mayor Bass’ first 6 months. Also reported was that 262,700 pounds of waste was removed since March 2022. Pictures shown highlighted the before and after of homeless encampments in Hollywood, Harbor City and South L.A. with photos taken on June 12, the day before the press briefing of sustained results at 101/Cahuenga underpass since Dec. 20; Rose Avenue in Venice since Jan. 3 and 87th Street in South LA since Jan. 30. While many challenges and solutions were discussed and they were shown on a very detailed Power-Point presentation, however, emphasis on the core of the problem was still not addressed, which is Black homelessness in the City of Los Angeles. The figures does not emphasize nor show the break out of how many Black people were helped in the graphics. They were all lumped in together; therefore, there were no detailed solution provided for the root of the problem which is noted in all reports documented even the last Census revealed this to be so. And across the state, the U.S. Census shows about 6.5% of Californians identify as black or African American, but they account for nearly 40% of the state’s homeless, according to a Department of Housing and Urban Development report to Congress. Nationally, black people account for 13.4% of the population but are 39.8% of the homeless population. It was announced in last month in May that California was to receive federal help to get unsheltered residents into permanent housing under a new plan launched as part of the Biden administration’s larger goal to reduce homelessness 25% by 2025.
The work the mayor and her team is to be applauded but if one is to take a look on the streets Black homeless people are filled everywhere.
Allowing for Black people to languish in the streets of Los Angeles is unacceptable in any fashion when there are billions of dollars being spent and sole-source contracts are being doled out to those who already have more than enough and yet the smaller transitional sober living homes have beds that are lying empty when a state of emergency has been called to combat homelessness with resources galore yet here we have red tape that’s in the way.
In The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson, he said, speaking about riots breaking out all in the north, specifically in Chicago in 1966, “Riots grow out of intolerable conditions. Violent revolts are generated by revolting conditions and there is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people who feel they have no stake in it, who feel they have nothing to lose.” This, I believe, can be said about Black homelessness in Los Angeles. Many feel they have nothing to lose and they are dying by the thousands. To me, the solution is to first fix the Black homelessness problem and I believe the City will get the result required by the Federal government by 2025.
However, if the money is going out to everyone and everything else except to cut out the root cause of the problem then the money is spent in vain and it is not going to stop the Black homeless pain. The solution is to stop the bleeding of Black homelessness and then to allow the Black homeless to recuperate in order for them to survive and thrive.
Until the Black homelessness is handled and eradicated this serious problem will not be vacated. It will only fester and fester like gangrene eating away behind the scene.
So therefore, the charts that were presented on Tuesday, again, they were well and good, but the real solution is to seek help out in the real neighborhoods, where the problems are in SPA 6 where the greatest need must be fixed. Black homeless people have continued to be the highest in the LAHSA count although they are the smallest in population is evidence showing where the root of the problem lie but the crucial question is will those who are in control really try when they are making so much money watching Black homeless people lying in the streets and dying.
The Southern Truth