HOMELESS CLIMBS - The new numbers from last January’s Homeless Count indicate a 9% increase in homelessness countywide and a 10% jump here in Los Angeles (Homelessness continues to soar, jumping 9% in L.A. County, 10% in the city).
But despite new political and governmental leadership as well as an unprecedented increase in expenditures and investment, nothing changes.
The ZOOM call last week with some 300 residents co-hosted by LA Mayor Karen Bass (D) and Councilwoman Traci Park (CD-11) was full of happy talk, rhetoric that does not match the reality of the streets of LA.
With 30% of those unhoused self-identifying as substance abusers and another 25% experiencing mental illness, where is the plan to solve this crisis of extreme proportions?
Why wasn’t a specific plan-of-action rolled out with a stated timeline for completion?
For decades LA has relied on “not-for-profit” service providers to handle much of the outreach and placement which has failed miserably by any metric or standard.
The fact is homelessness has increased a disturbing 80% since 2015 with no end in sight.
A crisis that is California-based as the state accounts for 12% of the US population but some 35% of the unhoused!
LAHSA’S new homeless count numbers proves one thing, that failure is rooted in this bloated bureaucracy to get out of its own way!
The problem is getting worse no matter how much money is expended with another $1.3 billion being invested in the new LA municipal budget for 2023-24!
For how much is needed to even stem the tide and where is the plan of action to solve the problem?
And what is the plan?
For this failure to plan, to offer a citywide strategy is at the heart of the problem and why LA is once again planning to fail!
For money is not the issue as it gets squandered among those who profit from this cottage industry of homelessness thanks to government incompetence believing if they throw just enough money at it, it will somehow be solved.
For every current service provider on the city payroll should be fired for outright incompetence!
Mayor Karen Bass claims we have an emergency, then it is time to offer emergency-style solutions that work and get rid of those who have failed.
One example was the appointment of Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, a not-for-profit bureaucrat with no record or resume of solving this crisis now heading LAHSA at over $400,000 annually in compensation, benefits and perks that make her one of the highest paid employees in municipal government who is clearly in over her head.
Not only does she make more than President Joe Biden ($400,000), but nearly double of her predecessor who resigned in frustration last year!
Dr. Kellum states we really don’t know why things are not changing, calling the situation “disappointing, not surprising.”
For this is no time for traditional bureaucrats to hope for the best and Dr. Kellum should either resign or be terminated by Mayor Bass because she lacks the ability to understand or solve this issue that continues to fester out-of-control on her watch!
The numbers indicate the Westside was hit hardest with a 45% increase and who knows how badly the problem continues to grow here in Venice.
While some encampments have been cleared, new ones seemingly pop up daily and those that have been cleared on Venice Blvd, Hampton, Third and Flower are under imminent threat of new encampments and tents.
According to Councilwoman Traci Park’s office, about 200 individuals in Venice are now indoors. But the low hanging fruit has been plucked and Venice still remains outside of Skid Row ground zero for homelessness on the Westside and the largest street population in all of CD-11!
Park’s proverbial political “flip flop” on bridge housing here in Venice was shocking, given the fierce community opposition and a sense her whole candidacy was about closing that facility at the Main Street location back in 2021 when she and hundreds of Venetians like myself opposed the plan proposed by then Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Mike Bonin.
Much of her political support in 2022 was based on the assumption and premise that bridge housing’s time in Venice would in fact expire, cease and desist!
Some of her political support is now scratching their collective heads based on this terribly misguided decision to keep bridge housing in Venice, only confirming that Dogtown will continue to be a “containment zone” for all that is homelessness while more affluent neighborhoods like Pacific Palisades get the obvious pass.
For why is Venice going it alone when it comes to homelessness and what makes it more frustrating is that Park is a Venetian.
All politics is local Councilwoman Park.
Being an Angeleno first is not what those in Venice expected from this hard-charging newcomer.
The time to put Venice first is now.
For blaming Mike Bonin is no longer a viable talking point.
The so-called lack of funding fantasy is not the issue and cutting out a public safety perspective on how to keep our streets safe from rampant homelessness and encampments is no longer an option.
For the bottom-line is obvious, public safety and encampments cannot be separated, and they go hand in hand if you seek successful results regarding homelessness.
While both Bass and Park to their credit have partnered and worked together, there is little in tangible results.
For LAHSA’s new numbers only confirm these failed efforts.
The time for a bold and swift call to action is necessary from the Mayor with support from every council member.
The time is now to clean house of the failed bureaucrats in charge, from Dr. Kellum to every homeless service provider living off the taxpayer dime!
You have an extreme situation on LA’s streets and sidewalks and to fix it takes bold and undaunting leadership that currently does not exist.
If politicians like Bass and Park are relying on the current cast of characters to fix this problem, their time in office will be brief.
A Marshall Plan style approach is what is needed.
A trusted leader who has a track record of fixing difficult problems with a timeline to succeed is what is necessary.
A Bill Bratton style manager who sees the issue for what it is and will not accept failure as an option.
Someone who wears political blinders and has the independence and personal strength to build a plan, stick to it and win for a city exhausted by political ambivalence, fear and outright incompetence.
(Nick Antonicello is a thirty-year resident of Venice who covers the issue of encampments and homelessness. Have a take or a tip about Venice? E-mail him at [email protected].)