Homelessness Crisis: A State of Emergency

By Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Special to CNN.com

The multifaceted St. Joseph Center Street Outreach & Engagement Team connects with homeless individuals. Photo by County of Los Angeles

(CNN) — Los Angeles is enduring a crisis of homelessness. We are in the eye of an economic storm — fighting the forces of high rents, stagnant wages, and a deficit of a half million units of affordable housing — that is pushing thousands from housed to homeless. And its cost, the moral expense to us as a community and region, deserves a statewide declaration of a State of Emergency.

This year’s count revealed that at any given point in time, there are more than 58,900 Angeleños experiencing homelessness; many are families sleeping in places not meant for human habitation. It is a frightening illustration of the challenges we face that many from afar may not easily comprehend — for every 133 people our service providers house every day, 150 more people become newly homeless.

It is a race against time, because most unsettling of all, homelessness kills. Last year, 918 people died on the street while they were homeless, and this year we are tragically on track to see more than 1,000 people die in Los Angeles County — an average of nearly three people are dying every day on our streets. For context, this is a rate nearly double the rate of homicide deaths in Los Angeles County. And, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, nationwide, those who do survive see their lifespans cut by an average of 20 years because they’ve lived among the elements.

Read full OpEd at CNN.com