While Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature debated how best to disburse $1 billion in funds to aid people living on the streets of California, an audit revealed staggering increases in the number of destitute people experiencing homelessness.
This new allocation comes on the heels of Measure H, which passed in 2017 and increases the Los Angeles County sales tax by a quarter of a cent for 10 years. In that time, the measure is expected to raise $3.5 billion.
In 2016, voters in the city of Los Angeles passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure in order to build $10,000 units of affordable housing.
Meanwhile, officials in Pasadena said the city’s own decreasing homeless count is not an anomaly.
According to the local count, there are 542 people experiencing homelessness in Pasadena, down from 677 in 2018.
The 2019 homeless census is the second lowest in Pasadena since the count began in 1992. The lowest numbers were recorded in 2016, when 530 homeless people were counted.
That’s a far cry from Los Angeles where the survey revealed a soaring homeless population over last year of more than 36,000 people, and more than 59,000 people living on the streets around Los Angeles County, according to the LA Times.
“The fact that the recent homeless count indicated that Pasadena’s number of homeless actually went down, while increasing in other cities, is testament to the efforts of the city and local nonprofits,” said City Manager Steve Mermell. “Sadly, however, it gives me little comfort, as the problem is so pronounced, particularly in Los Angeles County. There is no easy solution, as homelessness is the downstream result of many other issues. Collectively, we must be willing to implement real solutions that get people off the street rather than move them around from place to place.”
But according to the aide of one Los Angeles City Council member, many cities are not part of the collective effort and instead are using police in suburban areas to remove the homeless from their streets and direct them to Los Angeles.
In one instance, a homeless encampment lines the north side of Venice Boulevard under the San Diego (405) Freeway in West Los Angeles.
But on the south side of the street, which is in suburban Culver City, there are no tents or homeless people. Similar situations exist in Manhattan Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes.
In Eagle Rock, an unincorporated part of Los Angeles, tents line the south side of an underpass of the Glendale (2) Freeway on Wilson Avenue, but ends just before Glendale’s city border.
“Some police officers are taking the homeless out of their cities and moving them to the LA city side,” Branimir Kvartuc, a spokesperson for LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino, told FOX News last week.
Last year, Buscaino called for an investigation after a video showed police dropping a man off on the streets in San Pedro. According to Buscaino, the man showed signs of mental illness.
Sheriff’s deputies claimed the man asked for a ride to Pasadena where he said he lives. The deputies told him they couldn’t drive him there but would take him to a bus stop. There is no direct route from San Pedro to Pasadena.
“This call is not a case of dumping,” said Nicole Nishida, a public information officer with the Sheriff’s Department. Nishida called the incident “an act of compassionate service.”
Critics like Kvartuc point to the disparity in Los Angeles’ population compared to its homeless number. The city’s 4 million people make up about 38 percent of the county’s total population, but the 36,000 homeless people living in the city account for 61 percent of the county’s homeless population. And those numbers are soaring, due in part to rising housing costs. Los Angeles is not the only county that has experienced large increases in its homeless population. Riverside County saw a 22 percent increase, San Bernardino County saw 23 percent increase and Orange County saw a whopping 48 percent increase from its last count in 2017.
“We’re bailing water from the proverbial boat with a hole in it and the boat is sinking,” said Ryan Bell, spokesperson for the Pasadena Tenants Justice Coalition. “The cure is legislation that will keep tenants in their homes. Wages have not kept pace with rent increases and, astonishingly, 721,000 LA County households are severely rent burdened, defined as spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent. Unless and until cities across LA County take action to protect renters and stabilize the precariously housed, more and more families will find themselves sleeping in cars and garages, on floors and sidewalks.”
But so far the efforts to fight the problem include legislation to build more housing under legislation like SB 50 — which would prohibit cities across the state from banning mid-rise apartments within a half-mile of public transit and allowing for four or more homes on parcels of land in single-family neighborhoods.
But it would take years to build enough housing to put a dent in the current homeless population.
Last week, Newsom said that the state will spend nearly $1 billion to help combat the problem. But no one knows how that money will be divided up, or if any accountability standards would be included to determine how the money is spent.
Pasadena could get anywhere between $500,000 and $1.4 million based on the formula chosen to dole out the money. Under Newsom’s plan, the 13 biggest cities in Los Angeles County, continuums of care and all counties would get money.
But under a plan by the state legislature, money would only go to the state’s 13 biggest cities and continuums of care. Under that scenario Pasadena would receive about $1.4 million.
The PTJC is currently collecting signatures to place a rent control ordinance on the ballot.
Pasadena, along with Long Beach and Glendale, is one of three cities designated a continuum of care in California. A continuum of care includes a planning body that coordinates housing, services and funding for homeless families and individuals.
“Since 1995 we have had a very strong commitment in the fight against homelessness,” said Bill Huang. “CoC’s receive federal dollars and creates and implements its own strong plan and has established its own resources and programs. That’s why our numbers went down. We have been consistently focused on the issue.”