by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News
LOS ANGELES — Local elections are this week, and aside from some city council seats and the new title of Los Angeles Mayor — one ballot measure looks to address homelessness.
In a diverse city of eight million, between the buildings, under bridges, and along neighborhoods resides a different kind of city: tent cities.
There are an estimated 45,000 homeless living on the streets of LA County.
While a few of those that live in the tents are of Asian descent, the homeless crisis affects everyone.
“There are about 750 people, families, experiencing homelessness. It is a real situation for individuals families… there are far more on the brink of homelessness, who are not counted,” says United Way’s Chris Ko.
“It’s also in our community — so Koreatown has seen homelessness increase visibly in the street, and a lot of papers have reported on the encampments there.”
Reba Stevens knows the all too real struggle.
After a job loss, stress, and substance abuse, she found herself on the streets at 19 years old, fighting an uphill battle for many years.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to remain housed,” Stevens said in a panel on homelessness. “I didn’t how to be responsible, how to be accountable, how to be neighborly.”
Homelessness is part of the March 7 municipal elections, with Measure H — which would use a sale tax increase to fund homeless alleviation programs.
Elected officials and community leaders are working together to help take people off the streets.
Fil Am Grace Weltman, who grew up in LA’s Historic Filipinotown, is president of Communities in Motion — a think tank agency that helps find solutions. She’s currently working with the LA transit system.
“Because Metro, our transit authority, has seen an explosion of homelessness in the transit system affecting ridership and public safety… they’re ramping up their planning process. and we’ll be producing some sort of action plan,” said Weltman.
Even those trying to stop the crisis aren’t immune.
Advocates say with rising rent prices, unstable jobs, and overall high costs of living in the city, many people live on the brink of homelessness.
Weltman’s own mother was forced out of her home, through gentrification.
“We had a hard time finding a place to live, and being a Filipino citizen of the United States, living being here for 30 years… to be in this situation where she could possibly not find housing put the fear in me,” she said.
Critics of Measure H believes the extra sales tax could be a burden on tax payers, and that the city should find other ways to fund solutions to the homeless crisis.