Location USA USA

The other side of Tinseltown: ‘riverside living’ has a different meaning in America’s homeless capital

Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is now known by a more sombre sobriquet – the homeless capital of America.
Living in the shadow of the world famous Hollywood sign, some 44,000 people survive without a proper home, many sleeping in cars, tents or in makeshift shacks.
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the down-and-out population has increased by as much as 20 per cent. Authorities have declared a state of emergency and are seeking $100million to deal with the crisis.
Many of the homeless live along the banks of the Los Angeles River, which flows from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, over a distance of almost 48 miles.
A major cluster of homeless live in Downtown LA, hiding under bridges or sleeping along railway lines.
An estimated 800 people live in LA’s riverbeds and storm drains, who are at risk when the river floods.
The concrete-lined river is often used as a set for Hollywood blockbusters.
Earlier this year, the City announced a 10-year plan adopted by with the ambitious goal of ending LA’s growing homelessness, includes hiring social workers, offering quality housing and building permanent housing.
In addition, Los Angeles County supervisors also agreed to release $100 million over several years ($42 million in the first 12 months) toward housing the homeless.
Homelessness is ‘the most serious humanitarian crisis confronting our county today,’ said county CEO Sachi Hamai.
Plans for funding the initiatives still must be adopted, with the city of Los Angeles scheduled to vote on its budget in April.
City Councilman Jose Huizar, who co-chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, acknowledged that a series of past plans to reduce homelessness had failed.
Between 2013 and 2015, the number of homeless in Los Angeles County soared by 12.4 per cent, with the percent of those living in the street or in their car — without access to emergency shelter — soaring by 85 per cent.
Of the 44,000 homeless people living in the county, some 29,000 or two-thirds, sleep in the streets, tents or their cars, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Some people have created wooden shacks, left, underneath freeway bridges on the access roads linking the city to its suburbs.
Those left behind by society try to survive by gathering pieces of scrap and old pallets so they don’t have to sleep on the floor.
The 2008-2009 economic crisis took a hefty toll on Californians, while housing inflation has drastically limited affordable options.
In addition, many homeless opt to live in Los Angeles due to its mild weather and social services, notably near Skid Row, where some 5,000 homeless live.
By comparison, the homeless population in New York, America’s largest metropolis, is larger at 57,000 people, but 95 percent of them live in shelters or temporary housing funded by local authorities and the state.
Los Angeles County spends around $1 billion a year on medical, psychiatric and social welfare care for its homeless, not including police expenditures.
‘A real bed is much less expensive than a jail bed or a hospital bed,’ Phil Ansell, director of the county’s Homeless Initiative, told the Los Angeles City Council.
Commuters and Hollywood stars often speed along the freeway, completely oblivious to the miserable lives being lived by the homeless.


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