Homelessness in the Golden State – California

At $2.717 trillion, California has the largest economy than any other State. If California were a country it would be the 5th largest economy in the world!

Northern California is a microcosm of America’s extremes of wealth and poverty in California. Tech millionaires are thriving while not far away, the homeless are living in tent cities. Some people experiencing homelessness may suffer from drug abuse and mental illness, but many others are ordinary hardworking individuals priced out of the housing market due to limited or non-existent affordable housing.

In Southern California‘s Los Angeles County, nearly 60,000+- people live on the streets or in shelters each night. Homelessness is chronic. In my community of the San Fernando Valley homeless encampments are seen everywhere; Individuals are living in their vehicle, in tents under freeway overpasses, on the side of the road and along dry river-beds.

Low income households often do not earn enough to pay for food, clothing, transportation and a place for them to call home. There is no longer a middle-class as we once knew it. There is only the rich (1%) and the poor. 

In 2017, 14,000 arrests of homeless people were made in Los Angeles.The top five charges were for nonviolent or minor offenses. The base cost of sleeping on a sidewalk is $35. However additional fees could bring that cost to $238. Homeless people go to jail for not paying for offenses that warranted only citations. Unpaid tickets can linger for years. The homeless are caught in a revolving door of debt and jail. 

In an effort to provide temporary shelter for some of the homeless in Los Angeles, city officials recently announced a plan to install modular trailers on city-owned properties that include parking lots to house them. Intensive case management services, ranging from mental health services to drug and alcohol treatment are planned to be available at trailer locations. These facilities are said to be structured around helping homeless to stabilize and move into permanent housing as quickly as possible.

The first year, the program would cost a little more than $2 million. After that, running the shelter would cost $1.2 million, and would serve about 60-70 people every six months.

Housing is instrumental to address the health needs of people experiencing homelessness. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS are found at high rates among homeless population. In 2017, an outbreak of Hepatitis A in both San Diego and Los Angeles, California was attributed to unsanitary conditions in homeless encampments. A lack of running water and bathroom facilities are major contributors to the outbreak.

In the City of Santa Ana located in Orange County, California, in the shadow of major league baseball (MLB) Angel Stadium, 1000 homeless individuals are being removed from a 2-mile long river trail homeless encampment. Relocation services being offered include temporary housing in shelters, however, because many homeless feel unsafe in shelters they refuse those services. Mental health and drug treatment services are also being offered. Health concerns as it relates to chemical waste and human waste are widespread in this encampment as well. 

Investigation determined one source that ignited recent California wildfires were campfires used in a homeless encampment for cooking and keeping warm. 

Most communities in California have Federally Qualified Health Centers that provide basic health services without substantial cost. The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) expanded healthcare options to allow states to expand their Medicaid health care programs to cover people with very low incomes.

While homelessness affects all races and ethnic groups, it impacts some minorities at higher rates.


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