Courtesy of Levi Clancy via Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA 4.0

Home to the third-largest homeless crisis in America, Los Angeles has reached a reckoning to finally help the affected population. In order to prompt the city to do something, a judge is withholding the $1 billion worth of homeless relief that has piled up over the years and placed it in escrow for 60 days. These 60 days will be absolutely crucial; if LA can come up with some sort of plan in that time, then it could set the precedent for homeless relief in other counties, and even across the country as a whole. However, in order for this to be truly effective, county officials must make sure they take into account a number of factors to not only solve the homeless crisis as is, but also make sure to address the crisis at its root.

With so many funds, it seems obvious that first and foremost, the money could go towards building shelters for those in need. However, this isn’t the catch-all cure for this issue; there is a stigma that permeates both society and the homeless community itself that homeless people are addicts. Though this stigma is sometimes true, it is also equally damaging to those who fall victim to it. However, in order to ensure the safety of all homeless people, LA would find it wise to develop divided housing shelters that allow each individual or family a room to themselves that only they have access to, so they have peace of mind in a sheltered situation. And within this divided housing format, those who do suffer from addiction can get the help they need in a separate part of the shelter. 

Additionally, the funds should also go to competent, respectful staff. Cases of abuse in homeless shelters are sadly all too common, and funding a process of background checks and hiring people with the right qualifications for the job will ensure safer homeless shelters for all. Most importantly, proactive staff will help promote rehabilitation even more, and therefore this factor should be funded.

Of course, it is not enough to simply put the money towards helping those who are already homeless. Part of this funding should also go towards preventing homelessness in LA, particularly towards funding education and opportunities in Black and brown communities. Black and Indigenous people are more likely to experience homelessness than their white counterparts, and part of this can be chalked up to the lack of good education and funding in the neighborhoods that are predominantly nonwhite. If part of this fund was to go towards improving schools and expanding more opportunities for these communities to succeed, part of the issue of homelessness would be nipped in the bud.

Furthermore, the price of living in LA has significantly gone up over the years, which has only further contributed to the housing crisis. As the city has gained so much fame over the years, it has gradually become even more gentrified as celebrities and influencers move to LA and live in exorbitant wealth. Meanwhile, poorer communities are forced out of their homes because they can no longer make rent on their houses. In the case that more funding was needed for this push to help the homeless, then it should be levied from the influencers who have made LA all the more expensive to call home in the first place.

With these factors in mind, LA county must create a plan that will take into account both solving the problem for those who are already homeless, as well as taking steps of prevention. The plan, if there is one, will be an incredible piece of homeless relief if it is done well; however, there is still a chance that the plan will not meet expectations. It is no surprise that bureaucracy will likely push back against any significant change to help the homeless, and as such, they may produce a plan that is lacking at best and harmful at worst. 

It is of utmost importance that the LA community demands a plan of action that will ensure none of the money goes to waste, and this plan should not simply be a band-aid on a bullet wound. A good plan will allow for transparency as to where these funds are going, create opportunities in underfunded minority communities and assist those who are already homeless to help them get back on their feet. All eyes should be watching LA as they create this plan because it could alter the way the homeless crisis is treated nationwide if they create something solid. 

Above all else, LA would be wise to remember throughout the process that homeless people are people too. They have rights just like those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads. Regardless of if they suffer from addiction or if they have simply fallen on hard times, shelter is a human right. Los Angeles needs to buck up and create a plan to help their impoverished residents, if not out of the goodness of their hearts, then to simply provide one of the most basic needs of humankind.