Why Democrats Don’t Help The Homeless
Can the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco succeed where Gov. Gavin Newsom failed?
By Beige Luciano-Adams
In Los Angeles, we see more incidents of street addicts in psychotic states taking off all their clothes.
“I saw the couch one day out there, and I think, 'Oh my God,’” a business owner living near a homeless encampment said. “The next day, I came back and see she's all over the couch, and she's just naked. She was crying.”
Across L.A., thousands of mentally ill, manic, and psychotic people live in tents and RVs filled with garbage. A woman fills shopping carts from the dumpster in the Echo Park neighborhood. She piles the detritus around her van, blocking the street, despite regular visits from counselors, the sanitation department, and police.
Violence is pervasive. Three men were recently stabbed near Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles, and another three people suffered fatal overdoses in permanent supportive housing. Two weeks ago, a woman in Venice Beach fled from an altercation with an RV owner camped illegally beside her home.
“I was afraid for my life,” said Soledad Ursua. “It’s not the first time. People say it’s a housing crisis. But when you see someone passed out in their own vomit or covered in feces and doing drugs, you realize it’s drugs and mental illness.”
The so-called “homeless crisis” is nearly ten times worse in L.A. than in San Francisco. There are 7,800 homeless people in San Francisco County and 69,000 in Los Angeles County. And where the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco declined by 3.5%, in L.A., the number rose by nearly 30% between 2018 and 2022.
The city’s new mayor, Karen Bass, has declared a state of emergency and launched “Inside Safe,” an initiative to get 17,000 people out of encampments and into hotels this year and ultimately move them on to permanent housing. She has done “more in her first 100 days than her predecessor in his entire time in office,” said Rev. Andy Bales, President, and CEO of Union Mission in Downtown L.A.
Bass has already succeeded in persuading many to trade their tents for hotel rooms, and she is better positioned than any political leader in recent history to deliver real reform.
And things may be changing statewide. San Francisco recalled its District Attorney for allowing too much street crime and disorder, and Governor Gavin Newsom has sought new ways to get mentally ill homeless off the street.
But the clearing of encampments in Los Angeles was aided by an unusually cold and wet winter and, for much of the city, the crisis is as bad as ever. And In San Francisco, few believe Mayor London Breed’s new plan is any different from past failed plans, and the mayor herself recently pleaded with the federal government to help shut down open-air drug dealing.
The truth is that California’s leaders, including Bass, Breed, and Governor Gavin Newsom, have for decades promised the same things — “housing and wraparound services,” a.k.a. “Housing First” and “harm reduction” — and the problem has only grown worse.
Why is that? Why can’t California’s Democrats seem to fix homelessness? What will it take to turn things around?