Homelessness Emergency: L.A. about to Spend $100 Million to Attract More Homeless

The city government’s response to what they describe as a homelessness emergency will only make their problems worse.

With the state of the economy being what it is, I often think about strategies I should use if I were to become homeless. One important item on that mental checklist is to move to the Southern part of this country so I don’t have to deal with cold weather.

So it doesn’t surprise me at all that L.A. gets a lot of homeless people. According to this news analysis of rapidly growing homelessness in the city: “L.A.’s climate and warm weather have long been a magnet for homeless people.”

I doubt you are surprised by that either.

The rise in homeless people is an interesting hint at the nature of the Obama economy. “Experts blame soaring rents, low wages, and stubbornly high unemployment.” Too bad L.A. is about to increase the high unemployment in the name of solving the problem of low wages.

But now the city council is about to spend $100 million of taxpayers’ money to make L.A. more attractive to the homeless.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “L.A. to declare ‘state of emergency’ on homelessness, commit $100 million.”

Acknowledging their failure to stem a surge in homelessness, Los Angeles’ elected leaders on Tuesday said they would declare a “state of emergency” and devote up to $100 million to the problem. But they offered few details about where the money would come from or how it would be spent, leaving some to question the effort’s chances of success.

The announcement by seven City Council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti was a powerful signal of growing alarm at City Hall over L.A.’s homeless population, which has risen 12% since 2013, the year Garcetti took office. It coincided with a directive from the mayor Monday evening that the city free up an additional $13 million in the coming months to help house people living on the streets.

If L.A.’s problem were merely local, this kind of plan might be justified. But think about what it means. People are already attracted to Los Angeles because of the weather. So what is going to happen when news gets out that the city is using $100 million in emergency funds to help homeless people?

Obviously, if this money is spent to make the homeless better off, that will mean even more people will start traveling to L.A.!

Perhaps the money will partly be used simply to herd the homeless out of sight. The story raises that possibility:

“It’s time to get real, because this is literally a matter of life and death,” said Councilman Mike Bonin, whose Westside district is home to many of the makeshift sidewalk encampments that are an increasingly glaring symbol of the problem across the city. He spoke of a “collective failure of every level of government to deal with what has been a homeless crisis for generations and is exploding and exacerbating now.”

Despite such tough talk, however, Tuesday’s announcement was marked by signs of the confused tactics critics say have hindered an effective city response to a growing challenge. Council members haven’t identified the sources for all of the money or how it would be used. Meanwhile, the mayor has yet to release a sweeping plan — now weeks overdue — he says he is crafting to end homelessness.

“This is all simply words,” said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Assn., which has argued for a more aggressive approach to clearing encampments and housing the homeless. “Again, it shows an ongoing lack of leadership on behalf of the city.”

If the money is going to be used to relocate the homeless (relocate them where?) that might not be such an attraction to homeless people. But I doubt it is politically possible to make life bad enough for the homeless to make them go elsewhere.

This is a really hard problem. There are homeless people who need all sorts of help. But when some get help who absolutely need that help, others are encouraged to be content in their homeless situation even though they have the capability of bettering themselves. It is a vexing problem to try to solve.

I can be sure of one thing: Throwing $100 million at the problem in “emergency” spending is probably not going to solve the problem.