Skid Row: Mitigating Los Angeles' Infamous Human Crisis
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Emergency-level societal health risks are imminent for all of LA County as tens of thousands of its current residents are either housing-insecure or chronically homeless—a demographic which has increased by 28% in LA County in just the past year. Local governments’ ambitious steps to increase the supply of affordable housing is unlikely to significantly offset the rising homeless count, as citizens are falling into homelessness faster than housing is capable of sustainably increasing to meet the need. In this memo, historical and current federal, state, and local mitigation efforts are analyzed and contrasted with alternative policy solutions in order to produce an original policy recommendation. The result is a recommendation for the Garcetti Administration to support a California Affordable Opportunity Act (CAOA), to be passed through the California State legislature, which would codify local California governments’ right to incentivize economic emigration by expanding their Continuum of Care services to include emigration assistance for eligible residents who are at-risk of, or currently experiencing, homelessness. LA County’s tens of thousands of severely mentally ill, substance-addicted, and disabled homeless residents will not be effectively cared for as intended until its work-capable and low-income residents who have been priced out of the housing market pursue economic opportunity elsewhere, rather than fall into or remain in local homelessness, absorbing finite government resources intended to mitigate the crisis. Such economic opportunities exists currently in the regions of the U.S. offering livable minimum-wages and acceptable housing conditions, which Continuum of Care case workers should be assisting eligible applicants to obtain through programs such as the proposed American Opportunity Loan (AOL) program. In conclusion, California Continuums of Care are incomplete without programs designed to incentivize the movement of low-income workers away from unaffordable, impacted housing areas attributed to as the leading cause of homelessness, toward economic opportunity elsewhere, and LA County should be the first to implement an AOL program.