The Case for Homelessness

The Case for Homelessness

L.A. voters approved more money to fight homelessness. Now they want to see results

At a hastily organized meeting a few weeks ago, we held out the fact that we would be going to court. “I can’t wait,” said a woman who had been homeless, “I need to get out of this place.”

The courtroom was packed, as we made the case that our community had a duty to ensure that our young people are prepared to live on the streets. There was a little bit of drama when, after some shouting and name-calling, the judge called a recess to allow the lawyers time to prepare their client. The next week, after the trial was over, we were summoned for an emergency meeting. “I went to L.A. to fight homelessness,” said a man who had lived on the streets in Santa Monica for five years. We asked him how he would explain to his children why he had to leave home. “I can’t,” he said. “My mom kicked me out.”

A woman from the street told us, “I’m the most homeless person in the city.” She had walked from San Pedro because she wanted to leave her former housing project. Two years before, she had been moved to another section of San Pedro, where she slept on the streets in the hot summer. When the public health nurse came to her home to check on her, the woman told us, she found her at the base of the stairs, naked and covered in feces, having “devoured my food and everything in sight.” It took more than a year, but finally she had been moved to L.A., where the public health nurse took notice of her, and she was moved to shelters and eventually housed in a shelter. “But,” said the woman, “I’ve lived there so long that I don’t even have a home anymore.”

An older man called us from a shelter. He had lived in public housing in downtown L.A. for 20 years, and he was homeless again. He was a small man, and he was trying to fight back by trying to get hired. He said, “I don’t want to live on the street,

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