By Theo Henderson
The Unhoused crisis seems to be reaching a critical point in Los Angeles. From the Unhoused vantage point, dreams of being housed with dignity are being deferred. With carceral solutions leading like [Section] 41.18 [which makes it illegal to “sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or other public way”], Care Courts, bicycle bans on their very existence. One does not need to look abroad to see the explosion, exploitation, violence and discrimination on the vulnerable. Langston Hughes could have written Dream Deferred today, instead of 1951.
Let’s face facts, none of these “solutions,” will help the Unhoused community. It’s a bandaid on a broken appendage. It’s a terrible truth that a vocal housed collective has formed a toxic coalition-police, saviorism groups, business improvement district and neighborhood council groups has set in motion an intense war on the poor. Only this time, the rally cry is that the Unhoused community is service resistant. Worse, advocates are telling the Unhoused to stay on the streets.
51,000 Unhoused children are in the LAUSD system and 63,706 Unhoused adults in Los Angeles County are NOT service resistant. What is very clear is the city’s many ineptitude in handling this crisis. Despite a lame duck mayor assertion of meeting the moment, it has been squandered by the city. They have lowered the boom on the vulnerable by demobilizing Project Roomkey, returning essential funds to aid the Unhoused and creating hostile policies such as 41.18, bicycle bans and bloated city funds for the police.
If one is to follow the money, you will find 54% of the city budget goes to the police. The irony is not lost that law enforcement leaders whine about defunding the police while gorging themselves on six figures.
What is even more egregious, is the housed antipathy towards the Unhoused children. History has recorded smiling children at horrific events like lynching. Now, Councilmember Nury Martinez is putting housed children against Unhoused families. School administrators bemoan about “safety,” yet putting their Unhoused children in peril.
The dystopia reality takes another backwards step towards hapless decision making with Los Angeles agencies returning $150 million federal funds to house the Unhoused. This is not the Unhoused community fault. It’s easier to dehumanize a people then you can criminalize them.
I conclude with another poetic remnant of Langston Hughes. In the poem titled, Mother to Son, the mother imparts world weary advice, to keep climbing on a desolate pain filled world. Nowhere did she say go backwards. Our society should heed this sage advice. We have retreated to the dark yesterday’s where the world will be plunged into darkness. Let us meet the moment. Let us meet in the light of understanding.
Theo Henderson is a Los Angeles-based advocate for the unhoused community and is the host of the podcast “We The Unhoused.” He has over 8 years of lived experience being Unhoused.