Column: Could extreme heat be just what California needs to finally solve homelessness?
How would you respond to the question from an angry resident, “Is this really the best environment for a homeless person?” That’s what one resident asked at a recent City Council committee meeting on the homeless problem. They were protesting the city’s proposed plan to build a 2.5-acre shelter at the corner of B Street and Main Street in downtown Los Angeles to house the homeless.
A few of them walked alongside me on my walk around the neighborhood. They were dressed in a mix of clothing and shoes, mostly jeans, hoodies and T-shirts, with an occasional sleeveless top or hoodie. They seemed like weathered people, not attractive enough to pull them into a more stylish look. Each held a plastic cup of water as they tried to explain why they needed to be somewhere else, and why this was the best environment for them that city could provide them.
We all sat, waiting for the next speaker to come out of the public comment section, which was not long in coming. He was a man in his 60s, wearing a baseball cap and sweat pants. He stood in front of the microphone and started with the usual, “You people are living in poverty and you need to live someplace else.” He kept going until Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city officials came down the aisle after him and tried to talk him out of it. When they looked at him angrily, he answered, “No, no, you can’t stop this project. You can’t stop it.”
That was his response. If his response was not a classic example of emotional blackmail on his part, then he was not an extreme person.
“You know what the problem is? People are living on the street. They’re going to go out there to sleep on the street because they can’t afford it. It’s like a homeless person walking around your neighborhood. It happens,” the man said.
I thought to myself, If we really wanted to get homeless people out of downtown, there are homeless shelters in other cities where they’re not getting any nicer; in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and