Joel John Roberts
Posts by Joel John Roberts
Back home in Los Angeles, where homelessness has increased by 12 percent, the sprawling tent cities of America’s homeless remind me of the desperate refugees half a world away. Exhausted, sick, and somber people residing in tents on sidewalks, many of whom have given up hoping to escape the streets.
. . . lawsuits and ordinances are becoming the weapons of choice for addressing homelessness. Advocates for people experiencing homelessness are battling with city officials and their proposed ordinances designed to “clean up” the streets.
In Los Angeles today, those 1970s families would need to earn almost $70,000 per year just to rent an apartment. I can’t picture the Brady household – two parents, six kids, a housekeeper and dog – all living in an apartment in San Fernando Valley.
But then the parties started. Out came the drugs. Cars pulled up and Harry’s new neighbors sidled up alongside them, negotiating with the drivers. His street had become a swap meet for illegal substances.
Although the needs of the people we serve have become more intensive, one thing hasn’t necessarily changed. Ironically, they often still come from middle-class America.
A worker needs to earn $33 per hour to rent an average apartment in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. If that wage level were implemented in 2015, the average household would need more than two employed persons in order to afford a typical apartment.
Our first-world society is really the irresponsible party. We let men and women who fight in our wars end up on the streets. We let kids who endure years and years of foster care with loveless families live in alleys or abandoned buildings. So is the case with women encountering domestic violence and seniors struggling with mental health issues.
It is truly wonderful that several cities have ended veteran homelessness. However, homelessness has increased in many major jurisdictions – and homelessness encampments continue to appear across our landscape.
Once again, homeless service providers are being looked to as part of the solution. Because, when policy changes and funding is redirected, the community still turns to providers to actually house people who are homeless.
An empty apartment is not a home. When students go to college, their parents usually buy them bedding, cooking utensils, clothes, and food—so they can focus on their studies. When formerly homeless persons move into an apartment, just like those students starting on a new path, their home needs to be fully furnished; in turn, they can focus on looking for work and rebuilding their lives.