Unable to come up with real solutions for Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis, City Council Member Joe Buscaino is pushing forward a ballot measure that doesn’t address homelessness and merely rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic. Housing Is A Human Right, the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, strongly opposes the fatally flawed initiative — and urges Angelenos to not sign the petition.
“The City Council rejected this plan months ago,” says Susie Shannon, policy director of Housing Is A Human Right, “so Buscaino is trying to put this failed policy on the ballot to re-establish outdated, ineffective policies that failed to solve L.A.’s homelessness crisis in the past. Social justice, civil rights, and neighborhood organizations are all opposed to this initiative.”
If the main elements of the initiative sound familiar, it’s because this method of enforcing our way out of homelessness has been tried many times in Los Angeles and throughout the country. In every case, it has led to an increase in homelessness.
Shannon adds, “This is beyond crazy. It’s like the quote from Albert Einstein: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’”
Currently, there’s a petition drive to place the backwards initiative on the citywide ballot in L.A. Called “Joe Buscaino’s Safer & Cleaner L.A. Ballot Measure,” it will merely move unhoused residents from one street to another or from one neighborhood to another; it will spend millions on criminalizing homelessness by ticketing and prosecuting individuals – money that should be spent on permanent and interim non-congregate housing; and it does nothing to address root causes of homelessness, and therefore won’t solve this humanitarian catastrophe.
In addition, criminalizing homelessness has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. Ticketing individuals who then don’t appear in court and prosecuting them when the ticket becomes a warrant is a revolving door for the unhoused where they are in and out of police stations and courtrooms and back out onto the streets. It has never worked. In the end, millions of dollars are wasted and the unhoused are farther away from ever attaining permanent housing.
This model led to an increase of homelessness in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, and more recent criminalization policies obviously haven’t solved anything – L.A.’s unhoused population has only worsened over the years. Joe Buscaino’s Safer & Cleaner L.A. Ballot Measure is truly rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Going back to the old ways of doing things, such as focusing on more congregate shelters, is completely out of line for what’s needed today, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Congregate shelters have shown to be a serious health risk for unhoused residents during the pandemic and any other public health emergency, and the city of L.A. will pour more money into ticketing people rather than housing them.
Without permanent solutions such as more low-income and homelessness housing, neighborhoods will deal with more homelessness, not less. And unhoused men, women, and children will continue to suffer – many of whom will die on the streets. In 2021, UCLA researchers found that nearly 1,500 unhoused residents died in the L.A. area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Joe Buscaino’s Safer & Cleaner L.A. Ballot Measure is just smoke and mirrors,” says Shannon, “and it’s divisive, pitting residents against residents. The real solutions are there. We can’t go back to models that have failed us in the past.”
In fact, by ticketing unhoused residents, that will leave them with an arrest record that will make it even more difficult for them to attain housing.
Housing Is A Human Right has long advocated for real solutions that involve the “3 Ps”: protect low-income residents through strong tenant protections; preserve existing affordable housing by not allowing it to be demolished by luxury-housing developers; and produce truly affordable housing. That includes utilizing the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, such as old hotels and city-owned properties, that quickly and cost-effectively produces low-income and homeless housing. It also includes building from the ground up faster and for less money by using pre-fab modular housing.
Housing Is A Human Right urges Angelenos to not fall for the lies and deceptions that Buscaino’s campaign will tell them – and to not sign his ballot measure petition. People don’t need handcuffs, they need housing. Buscaino and the City Council need to make that happen.