“On the Streets” – Los Angeles Times documentary series on homelessness

Homlessness, Inequality, Los Angeles, personal experience

Los Angeles Times reporter Lisa Biagiotti has started a twelve part documentary series on homelessness in Los Angeles. The objective of the series is to connect the staggering statistics on homelessness in Los Angeles with the personal stories of people who are experiencing homelessness in the city.

The documentary is free and accessible to view on youtube, here is the link: ON THE STREETS — a feature documentary on homelessness in L.A.

The series is very effective at showing how varied experiences (and causes) of homelessness can be.

Some of the many quotes from the homeless people who were interviewed by Biagiotti in the film include:

“We’ve only been homeless for about two months…my husband and I had a set back…and then we lost everything, and now we’re down here [skid row].”

“I used to be somebody, now I’m somebody else, you know what I mean? I have a high school diploma and a college degree and they look at me like I’m homeless…I’m not homeless, I’m houseless because I don’t have a house. Homelessness is a state of mind.”

“It’s not sad but if you can’t make a certain amount [of money] and buy and apartment and afford to eat and do other things…you have to [live in your car].”

“My husband got arrested…because a guy attacked me. Now he’s serving 180 days and I ain’t got nowhere to go right now…he [my husband] told me to stay over here by the jail until I get out, but he don’t get out until December 31st and I don’t got no where to go.”




KPCC Covers Vehicular Homelessness in L.A.

Homlessness, Los Angeles

People who are experiencing homelessness often live in cars, RVs, and other vehicles.  Through restrictive parking and public spaces regulations, Los Angeles has increasingly made it difficult for people who are homeless to remain in their vehicles.  The public news outlet, KPCC, has been covering the stories of people experiencing homelessness who are living in RVs and vehicles.  KPCC’s coverage also details the policies and enforcement practices that prevent and encourage progress in this area. CLICK HERE to read KPCC’s news coverage.  The KPCC news coverage also includes visual representations of data on this topic, such as a map that shows where people who are living in RVs and campers are concentrated throughout Los Angeles County.

News Update: Mayor Garcetti Will Not Enforce Restrictive Ordinances on Homeless Residents of Los Angeles

homelessness, Los Angeles

Eric Garcetti addresses a crowd with Amy Elaine Wakeland at the Los Angeles Missions’s Annual Thanksgiving for the Homeless

As the last night of June 2015 drew to a close, Mayor Eric Garcetti revoked his support for the new ordinances (passed by the Los Angeles City Council last week) that would criminalize people experiencing homelessness and trample on their property rights.  In a statement, Garcetti said: “I strongly support the enactment of laws that enable the City to ensure that its public areas are clean and safe. However, the City must balance the need to maintain its sidewalks with the rights of the people who have no other choice but to live on them….[we need] smarter law enforcement, more compassionate treatment of homeless Angelenos, and [to] strengthen the City’s ability to withstand legal challenge.”

Garcetti refused to sign the ordinance into law and returned the ordinance to the City Council for further consideration.

The failed ordinances directed police officers to remove the property of people experiencing homelessness from the streets of Los Angeles after only a 24 hour warning.  The items would then be “stored” or impounded by the city for at least 90 days.  The ordinances would have denied people experiencing homelessness access to their own belongings–including important legal documents, tents and sleeping materials, and items of personal value.  The ability to access one’s property is central those trying to survive on the streets of Los Angeles.

These ordinances dripped with cruelty and unconstitutionality. Luckily, Mayor Garcetti withdrew support before these abhorrent ordinances could destroy the property and decrease the citizenship rights of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

CLICK HERE to view a map that shows where people who are experiencing homelessness reside and survive in Los Angeles. The map was designed by the Los Angeles Times.

City of Los Angeles Further Criminalizes Homelessness

Homlessness, Los Angeles

Last week, the City Council of Los Angeles took a giant step backward when it approved two archaic ordinances that allow for the involuntary removal of the property of homeless individuals from the streets of Los Angeles.  These ordinances, which are expected to be approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti, allow police officers to remove the property of people experiencing homelessness from Los Angeles streets after only 24 hours notice. The previous time allotted for warning was 72 hours.  Property will then be impounded by the City.  Tents will be subject to removal by the police between the hours of 6am-9pm.  Any tents found on the street between the hours of 6am-9pm will be “stored” (or impounded) for 90 days.

People who want to retrieve their personal property must find transportation to the impoundment center (which is a costly and arduous process for people experiencing homelessness).  The city is referring to these centers as “storage facilities”, not impoundment centers, because “storage facility” sounds less cruel and less bureaucratic, but in reality the retrieval of property poses further problems for people experiencing homelessness.  There will be forms to fill out and people will have difficulties navigating the system for retrieving personal property, as is often the case with impounding property.  The city has no “storage” system in place yet to accommodate the new ordinances, which shows that a lack of preparedness will make retrieval of property even more confusing and difficult for people who are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.  (City Council members even admitted that this lack of storage preparedness is a problem.)

The only Councilman to vote “no” on these horrible ordinances was Gil Cedillo. Councilman Cedillo was supported by homeless rights advocates and community organizers who were tightly packed into the City Council meeting.  “We should have a war on poverty, not on the poor,” Cedillo said at the City Council meeting.

One particularly eloquent homeless advocate was quoted in the Los Angeles Times on June 23, 2015 explaining the injustices of the ordinances from the point of view of people who support the rights of the homeless: “‘I don’t see how the city can acknowledge the involuntariness of the homeless, make breezy poetry about intent to provide solutions in the distant future and then feel entitled and moral to confiscate people’s property in the immediate,’ said Alice Callaghan, a longtime homeless advocate and director of a skid row school for immigrants’ children.”

Louise Mbella, Downtown Women’s Action Committee secretary was quoted in the Los Angeles Times critiquing the ordinances for their constitutional dubiousness and their lack of compassion: “The new ordinances are just cruel…If you negate the right to occupy public space to certain human beings, don’t call it public…You’re asking them to carry three suitcases on their backs.”

How did the City of Los Angeles get to this terrifying place of cruelty and inhumanity towards people experiencing homelessness?  Business Improvement District advocates have been imploring the City Council and the Mayor’s office to limit the visibility of the homeless in downtown Los Angeles to improve opportunities for financial gain.  Business Improvement District representatives believe that if people experiencing homelessness (and their belongings) are out of sight, then they will be out of mind.  This is textbook example of how “money talks” in politics.  The folks with “business improvement” goals–or gentrification goals–have overwhelming support from local politicians who will be looking for the electoral support of business minded voters in the next election cycle.  People who are experiencing homelessness face far more barriers to voting than business leaders and are therefor, not a valid constituency in the eyes of local political leaders.  If they were considered an important voting block, then they would have more than one City Council member representing their interests.  In Los Angeles, economic capital translates into political capital, leaving business leaders (and supporters of gentrification) to profit while allowing for the demonization and criminalization of people who are experiencing homelessness.

Watch the news coverage here:

CLICK HERE to watch the news coverage from ABC 7

CLICK HERE to listen to and read KPCC’s coverage of this news


This picture depicts people experiencing homelessness and people advocating for the homeless at the Los Angeles City Council meeting where the stringent enforcement of the destruction of encampments was approved.

Picture from: Genaro Molina (http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-homeless-sweeps-20150624-story.html)


Holland, Gale.  “L.A. City Council OKs crackdowns on homeless encampments”.  The Los Angeles Times.  23 June 2015.  http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-homeless-sweeps-20150624-story.html

Holland, Gale.  “L.A. vote makes it easier to break up homeless camps”.  The Los Angeles Times.  16 June 2015. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-homeless-belongings-20150615-story.html