Los Angeles County faces a pervasive and deepening crisis of homelessness, with 47,000 people homeless in LA County on any given night. Over the past three years, homelessness has increased by 123% and, in 2015, Los Angeles declared homelessness a state of emergency. But numbers and public statements don’t begin to convey the human suffering we see every day on our streets, in our neighborhoods, and in our parks and public spaces. We have a moral imperative to act – to reconnect homeless people with housing and the services they need to achieve stability and to address the root causes of homelessness to ensure that more men, women, and children don’t end up on LA streets in the first place.
Secure housing is an essential component of health and safety and people who experience homelessness disproportionately suffer from physical and mental health issues, from respiratory infections and poor nutrition to trauma and depression. Homelessness proliferates at the intersection of issues like unaffordable housing and displacement, income inequality, mass incarceration, food insecurity, racism, homophobia and transphobia, exposure to violence and trauma, and lack of access to mental health care. Addressing the underlying causes of homelessness means that we need to think and act “upstream,” to identify the factors that push people into homelessness.
This is why Los Angeles’ Measure H matters. Measure H proposes a ¼-cent sales tax to fund comprehensive social services for homeless individuals, such as job training, substance abuse treatment, transportation, case management, and mental health care, with a focus on the most vulnerable homeless populations, including victims of domestic violence, children and families, foster youth, veterans, seniors, and people with mental illnesses and/or disabilities.
Importantly, Measure H creates an opening to implement strategies to change the context in which people become homeless – to reform our criminal justice system, expand access to affordable housing and protect families at risk of displacement, and increase access to jobs and educational opportunities. If Measure H passes, it presents Los Angeles County with an opportunity to innovate, engage community members, and interrupt the pathways that currently lead to homelessness.
Measure H is expected to raise $355 million per year over the next 10 years, and is expected to help 45,000 families and individuals transition into housing in the next five years, while preventing 30,000 families and individuals from slipping into homelessness in the first place.
On March 7, LA County voters will decide whether to adopt Measure H. We strongly urge you to learn more about the measure at www.voteyesonh.com and vote “yes” and take action to strengthen the momentum to prevent homelessness across LA County.