L.A. voters approved more money to fight homelessness. Now they want to see results.
At a time when the L.A. Times was covering the homeless crisis in depth, it asked only one question: “How do you define homelessness?” The answer was easy.
As an article in the paper showed, homelessness, defined as lacking one’s home, is the result of a combination of mental illness, addiction and poverty, not a crime that needs fixing.
That was the L.A. Times way of doing things. It took homelessness – not a crime, but a condition – for granted, and didn’t want to know much else.
But now the Times is changing its ways.
On Monday, the paper published a feature story on a new effort that launched in July called “Hail to the Homeless,” funded through a $25 million grant from the California Endowment that’s part of a larger $3.9 billion program nationwide.
“Homelessness will no longer be left to fend for itself or to be ignored by city and county leaders,” the new “Hail to the Homeless” campaign says, based on reports that the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County rose by more than a half-million since the last time the city and county studied the problem.
“Our city and county share a responsibility to tackle our growing homeless population,” the campaign says. “We need a new approach.”
The Times did not ask any questions.
It could have asked, for example, why the city and county don’t try to find homes for the hundreds of thousands of homeless people who are in shelters and homeless for various reasons, such as addiction, mental illness or financial problems of all kinds.
It could have asked how many of the homeless people who are taking up residence in parks and vacant lots are mentally ill or addicted, or just poor.
But as the Times’ editors clearly recognized, homelessness is a complex problem with many different causes.
“We asked the same questions you might ask of a doctor who treats HIV or cancer, a doctor who treats addiction,” the editor, Mary Catherine Bates, wrote in the story.
The problem with that was that there is a growing body of