California's housing crisis of a decade ago has become its homelessness crisis of today as the the state refuses to take measures to create affordable housing in fear of collapsing another housing bubble.
Many blame mental illness and drug addiction for the soaring numbers, but experts say that is only part of the puzzle. The state’s severe housing shortage, which has forced rents to increase at twice the rate of the national average and put the median price of a single family home at $615,000, has also contributed to the crisis.
John Maceri, CEO of the Los Angeles-based social services provider The People Concern, said social safety nets, like affordable housing and job training, are all but gone, leaving already vulnerable people to fend for themselves.
“You reap what you sow,” Maceri said recently.
He was one of 300 volunteers who gathered in Santa Monica last week for an annual homeless count, part of a larger effort in Los Angeles County that spanned three days and covered thousands of square miles. Similar counts took place in San Francisco, San Diego and other parts of the country.
The federally mandated survey stretches to every nook and cul-de-sac. Its mission is simple: using U.S. census tracts, count every person who appears to be experiencing homelessness and report those numbers to the county. The county tallies them up using statistical analysis and sends them to the state, which sends a report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Similar to the census, the federal government doles out resources based on these findings. Cities and counties with the most need typically get the most money.
In Santa Monica, an idyllic coastal oasis in Southern California, the count took on the air of a community fair. Parking attendants ushered hundreds people into St. Monica Catholic Church on a Wednesday night, offering warm drinks and snacks to volunteers who greeted one another. The crowd filled with local residents and city officials was thick with anticipation.
Around 11 p.m., hundreds of volunteers, lawmakers and law enforcement officers embarked on what has become routine for the affluent community. The city was an early adopter of the count, said former mayor and current state Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a Democrat.
Bloom served three terms as Santa Monica’s mayor when homelessness still felt like a local problem. The city, with its soft beaches and year-round sunshine, had always been a magnet for homeless people. Residents and outsiders sang a familiar refrain: People experiencing homelessness were drawn to Santa Monica’s comfortable environment and abundant social services.
“Homelessness has been here for decades,” Bloom said. “But for many of those decades, we really didn’t see it as much as we do today.”
Nobody wants to build affordable housing, nobody wants to run affordable housing, and nobody wants to raise taxes to provide services to the homeless. New York City at least got that part right, but LA and San Francisco and other large cities in California have absolutely failed on this regard.
Yes, the Trump regime has done everything in its power to make the situation worse, but California's had this issue long before Trump was ever in the White House.