EPISODE 69 – YOUTH HOMELESSNESS IN L.A. WITH ROBIN PETERING

In our 69th episode, we chat with Robin Petering (@robinpetering), the executive director of Lens. Co, a research and advocacy company committed to ending youth homelessness in Los Angeles. We speak with Robin about her journey from community-based clinics in Oregon as an undergrad student to her PHD program at USC, which she completed in 2017. Robin and I discuss the definition of “youth homelessness,” including what we do not know about youth experiencing housing insecurity given our current frameworks. We also shout out the Hello Dogtown podcast, a podcast by and for youth with lived experiences of homelessness. Hello Dogtown is produced by Lens Co in partnership with Safe Place for Youth and funded by the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health Innovations 2.

J.T.

Use these Maps To Show Your Neighbors the Rate of Homelessness in Your District Since 2011

In 2011, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) published a map and sheet showing homelessness rates per district in Los Angeles.

On LAHSA’s 2011 map, districts with the highest numbers of unhoused people were shaded dark-blue and included:

I. CD-9, where the historic Skid Row area was based before a change to the district map, or redistricting, in 2012. The district was overseen by Jan Perry when an estimated 5,800 people in the community were reported without shelter.

II. CD-14, where Boyle Heights was based. The district was overseen by Jose Huizar–who vacated his seat recently after being arrested on charges of bribery–when an estimated 2,200 people in the community were reported without shelter.

III. CD-13, where East Hollywood was based. The district was overseen by Eric Garcetti when an estimated 1,900 people in the community were reported without shelter.

IV. CD-8, where Leimert Park was based. The district was overseen by Bernard C. Parks when an estimated 1,600 people in the community were reported without shelter.

A list of homelessness rates in Los Angeles per district as of LAHSA’s count in 2011.

Nine years later, for the 2020 count, LAHSA did not publish a map showing district per homelessness, but that didn’t stop a band of looky-loos from publishing another one for Los Angeles on their behalf. The choropleth map below notes percent changes for homelessness rates per district in a bivariate color scheme from green to red. Listed further below is a sheet ranking homelessness rates in order of highest to lowest per district based on LAHSA’s most recent count.

By 2020, a year after L.A. County reported $727 billion dollars in gross domestic product, fourteen of L.A.’s fifteen council districts, or 93% of the city, saw an increase of homelessness since 2011. As well, the districts with the highest numbers of unhoused residents actually included the same four districts from ten years earlier, though in a slightly rearranged order. These districts were:

I. CD-14, where Skid Row, along with much of downtown, was moved to after city redistricting in 2012. The district is now overseen by Kevin De Leon, and an estimated 7,600 people were reported without shelter as of last year, an increase of more than 245% since 2011.

II. CD-9, where historic South Central is still based. The district is now overseen by Curren D. Price, in which an estimated 4,900 people were reported without shelter as of last year, a decrease of 15.5% since 2011.

III. CD-8, where Leimert Park is still based along with the Crenshaw Corridor. The district is now overseen by Marqueece Harris-Dawson, in which an estimated 4,400 people were reported without shelter as of last year, an increase of 175% since 2011.

IV. CD-13, where East Hollywood is still based. The district is now overseen by Mitch O’Farrell, in which an estimated 3,900 people were reported without shelter as of last year, an increase of 105% since 2011.

A list of homelessness rates in Los Angeles per district as of LAHSA’s count in 2020.

Also note that while our choropleth map shows that District 9 was the only district that didn’t see an increase of homelessness since 2011, the lack of an increase did not change the district’s status as the second of the four areas with the most pronounced homelessness in Los Angeles over the last ten years.

While the growth of this issue may not be promising, a new day may be on the horizon. As of today, voters in Los Angeles have less than 397 days to pick eight new City Council Members, a new Mayor, City Attorney, and City Controller. But with over thirteen months to go, these races have already seen up to $2.5 million in campaign donations, more than a few of which ring peculiar.

Special thanks to Mehmet Berker, L.A.’s local cartographer, for this report’s map.

J.T

A homeless encampment in East Hollwood, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is not represented by its elected officials. It is trembling on the knees of dying men & women on its sidewalks

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 90)

Earlier today walking through the city I witnessed something like never before in my nearly thirty years through Los Angeles, which almost took my breath away. As I made my way through a sidewalk, a gray-bearded, African-American man, who couldn’t have been less than 65 years of age, sat on his knees in the middle of the sidewalk, his penis sticking out.

Before I knew it, as my legs crossed in front of him, the man began to pee. I turned my head in his direction then, almost in disbelief, but he did not return the look. He seemed almost unconscious. Of course, from the outset it was clear that the instance was nothing malicious on his part, but that it was from a pure need to relieve his body at a time when public restrooms in Los Angeles have been severely reduced in number, affecting most of all the unhoused.

What did feel malicious was that Mayor Eric Garcetti, the L.A. City Council, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, and more of our elected officials have allowed this throughout Los Angeles after decades in public office.

In particular, history wont be kind to Mayor Garcetti. “In real time,” meaning right at this very minute, under Mayor Garcetti the rate of unhoused people in L.A. is on track to reach more than 100,000 bodies on the streets over the next few years, up to nearly 700 civilians shot and killed by police, and well over tens of thousands of more empty high-end lofts than occupied affordable housing units.

In turn, by the time Garcetti leaves office in 2022, Los Angeles will likely be a poorer, more unhealthy, and thus more hostile city for its working-class than when he became mayor in 2013. For yours truly, this begs the question:

What is it to truly love Los Angeles?

I contend that it is not to love Dodger baseball, or to follow Lakers basketball, or to adore Kings hockey. And I contend that it is not to build luxury lofts, or to celebrate Hollywood films, or even to promote its multiple ‘cultures,’ notwithstanding those of its working-class masses.

I contend that loving Los Angeles is loving its most vulnerable, represented most of all by our nearly 70,000 unhoused, the last count of which was released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority just a week ago. What a name, for that matter, with the word ‘authority’ in its title.

What authority can a city-funded organization tasked with serving its unhoused legitimately claim, when its efforts have failed to serve the thousands of bodies, overwhelmingly African-American, abandoned on the city’s sidewalks?

Make no mistake about it: In the same amount of time that the city drove tens of thousands of its residents down to helpless tents over the barren concrete, elected officials like our L.A. City Council members have taken home millions in taxpayer dollars.

They were not alone, joined by other officials tasked on paper with the public good. Take police like chief Michel Moore, for example, who, in 2018, retired briefly to collect $1.27 million in taxpayer dollars, to be rehired by Mayor Garcetti just a few weeks later. Our elected representatives were also joined by non-elected big wigs such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which, in 2018, contributed over $1,000,000 to then-candidate Newsom’s campaign for governor.

In the end, however, the fact is that such men are still small fries compared to billionaires like the real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, a known Trump supporter, whose “Da Vinci” apartments in downtown Los Angeles go towards funding a $21 million mansion of his in Beverly Hills, not to mention properties in Malibu, St. Tropez, France, and more.

Palmer is one of a generation of men who, over the last twenty years in Los Angeles has benefited tremendously from a cataclysmic “transfer”–but more like high-jacking–of wealth that will play a decisive role in determining the next eighty years for our city & country, that is, unless something is done about it, and brazenly fast.

What will we do, then, Los Angeles, while a handful of men sit atop empires? Will we stand by as only more of our neighbors, and as more of our families, collapse under their weight? Is such a loveless city, and country, what we want history to remember us by?

The choice is ours.

J.T.

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