The Homeless, The Not So Invisible Population

First, some quick facts.

*Los Angeles County’s homeless population grew by 50% from 2015 to 2020 and as of 2022 there are now 70,000+ homeless in Los Angeles County.

*Homeless Deaths increased by 200% reaching nearly 2,000 deaths a year by yearend 2021.

*By Comparison Orange County reports approximately 6,000 and Portland Oregon which has grown 30% is roughly 5,200

*In 2021 homeless people in Los Angeles County accounted for nearly 25% of all homicides and homeless women in Downtown L.A. who reported being raped rose in each year of the past 3 years preceding 2020.

*By 2020 there were an estimated 161,500 and HUD now estimates we’re now at 172,000+ and yes that is for California only. That’s 30% of the Nation’s total homeless. According to the Governors, Legislative Analyst’s Office “Homeless Population Likely Larger Than Available Data Reveals”

*The State is trying to take the lead in managing the crisis with the 2022-2023 Budget of a staggering $2 Billion pushed into the General Fund to address near-term homelessness, another $1.5 Billion for behavioral health and $500 Million for Encampment Resolution Grants Program.

The City of Los Angeles has budgeted $1.3 Billion dollars (you read that right) and the County of Los Angeles has budgeted another $610 Million to manage the homeless crisis. Clearly, it’s not a money problem, but a solutions problem.

Many of us working in the Los Angeles area remember the “War-Zone” & public health crisis when the homeless invaded & occupied Echo Park. While the homeless invasion lasted several weeks, the City later re-captured this area collecting over 35 tons of debris, over 700 lbs. of biological waste and 300 lbs. of needles. In Orange County, the Santa Ana River Encampment grew to over 700+ homeless before the County took back control and cleaned up the area of tons of debris, and over 14,000 hypodermic needles.

The increase in Police, Fire and Emergency personnel is also off the charts with illegal tapping into power lines, fire hydrants for water, open fires, stoves and bbq’s. In 2019 L.A. Fire Fighters extinguished an average of 7 fires a day in homeless encampments, a 211% increase over the previous year.

So, the question we all have is, why such an explosion in our homeless taking control of our streets and creating the apocalypse of encampments? Well, our courts are now involved due in large part from the failure & ignorance of our elected to plan and manage this crisis.

Martin v City of Boise (9th Cir. 2018)

Panel Majority

“We hold…that so long as there is a greater number of homeless individuals in a jurisdiction than the number of available beds in shelters, the jurisdiction cannot prosecute homeless individuals for involuntary sitting, lying and sleeping in public. That is, as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter”

A prominent Los Angeles Law Firm cited.

 “In one misguided ruling a 3-judge panel of our court badly misconstrued not one or two, but 3 areas of binding Supreme Court precedent and crafted a holding that has begun wreaking havoc on local governments, residents and businesses throughout our circuit……It shackles the hands of Public Officials trying to redress the societal concern of homelessness.”

Then another lawsuit in 2022 added even greater protections to & for the homeless.

Johnson v. City of Grants Pass (9th Cir. 2022)

Majority

“Our Decision reaches beyond Martin slightly. We hold, where Martin did not, that class certification is not categorically impermissible in cases such as this, that ‘sleeping’ in the context of Martin includes sleeping with rudimentary forms of protection from the elements and that Martin applies to civil citations where, as here, the civil and criminal punishments are closely intertwined.”

My speculation is our elected’s inaction (maybe intentional inaction) to deal with our homeless pushed this issue to the courts providing these political hacks insulation to hide behind a “ruling” instead of taking responsibility. Now they can sit back and allow social conditions to plummet, forcing businesses, property owners, residents and concerned citizens to take the torch and carry it to a resolution.  Once again, Governments inaction, ignorance, and negligence may very well cost all of us with increased taxes and fees.

There have been hundreds and hundreds of millions thrown at the problem and no doubt $Billions$ more to follow as noted above and you can guaranty when Government is involved those dollars will be thrown, wasted, misappropriated, stolen and skimmed by politicians, their pet non-profits, Unions and the homeless machine before meaningful dollars float down to those in need.

Legal Experts Agree; “Clearly what needs to occur is both Martin and Johnson must be overturned. They are hurting our cities; they’re bad Constitutional Law and They’re hurting those they were meant to protect.”

The War on Drugs Continues……L.A. Magazine reported that by 2015 Meth (today’s Meth) is significantly stronger than crack cocaine which was the reigning drug of choice on the streets for over a decade & today’s METH along with Fentanyl has taken over our streets since 2015. Los Angeles Times reports that by 2021 36% of the deaths of homeless people in Orange County were directly related to Fentanyl and another 8% linked to other drugs. Wall Street Journal cited in Seattle 308 homeless deaths in 2022 a 64% jump over 2021 with more than ½ those deaths involving Fentanyl. We have a political majority here in California (Lefts and Progressives) that believes a slap on the hand will cure the drug problem all while drug dealers are getting wealthy off the weak & wounded.

As an Industrial/Commercial Broker and Property Manager in Los Angeles and Orange County we’re facing homeless issues nearly every day, and in looking for answers we participated in a series of Homeless Symposiums.  From homeless providers on Skid-Row, to Independent Shelters, Police, Fire, Emergency Personnel, Medical professional’s Lawyers and Constitutional experts to political leadership (whatever political leadership means) and countless others impacted by the homeless. We need solutions to get out of this homeless cycle.

 Special Thanks to the Jonathan Club for taking the lead in organizing these efforts and gathering the minds to openly and safely discuss the problems and possible solutions. We had some great minds willing to get up close & personal to address the conditions. But the problems were made significantly more complex & costly by the 9th Circuit Courts decisions.

But there could be more problems, a lot more.

I submit to you that this problem is NOT going away anytime soon. When you consider how much money is at stake (like $Billions$), the levels of government involved, government corruption, insanely lucrative contracts being awarded to “manage’ the crisis, plus another branch of government & their Unions, this is just another path to increased taxes & fees to keep the Homeless & Homelessness as an enterprise, a government enterprise. This will turn out about as successful as our Governments “War on Drugs”

 The Homeless and Homelessness are both a condition and an opportunity and there’s NO incentive for local governments and our elected to solve this issue anytime soon, it’s our problem, get involved or get comfortable with it.

by Tony Maniscalchi 5/11/2023

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