Amid deep frustration over widespread and visible homelessness, Los Angeles voters want the government to act faster and focus on housing for people living on the streets, even if the effort is short-lived and will not provide permanent housing – new poll districts. shows.
According to a poll conducted by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute in collaboration with The Times, a majority of voters continue to express sympathy for the homeless, as well as impatience and frustration with the region’s leadership.
Key takeaway: Nearly four in 10 voters said they felt largely insecure because of the homeless in their area.
When asked to describe their problems in their own words, voters repeatedly mentioned urine and feces on the streets, a growing sense of disorder and caring for their children.
“I didn’t feel safe there, especially when I was raising my children,” said Amber Morino, a 35-year-old student and mother of seven, who participated in the survey’s focus group. This year, she moved to the San Fernando Valley from her home in Mar Vista after a camper caught fire near the park where her children were playing.
“I’m also thinking about moving out of the state because it’s so bad there,” she added. “They say, I just feel that there are camps here at every turn – tourists. That’s just terrible “.
Just over one in five voters said they were seriously considering relocating due to homelessness in their area.
For many Los Angeles residents, the fear of personally being homeless or knowing someone to do so looms as an urgent potential threat.
Nearly four out of 10 voters said they either faced homelessness or insecurity in their home last year (11%), or they know someone who had it (25%).
That’s nearly half of black voters, reflecting the racial inequality of the homeless in Los Angeles.
The poll, which polled 906 registered voters across the county with a 3.3 percentage point margin of error, was designed to update a similar poll conducted by the Los Angeles Business Council and The Times two years ago. The results of the new survey are broadly consistent with several private surveys conducted in recent months by candidates, advocacy groups and other debates across the region on how to tackle the persistent problem of homelessness.
Despite two years of devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many views on homelessness have not changed.
One that seems to have changed concerns the trade-off between spending money on temporary housing or long-term housing.
When asked whether officials should focus on “short-term shelters” or “long-term homeless housing with services,” 57% -30% of voters chose short-term solutions. On a similar issue two years ago, opinions were almost equally divided.
VIDEO | 07:39
Los Angeles residents talk about homelessness
The Angelens voice their opinion on the growth of the homeless population.
Many homeless advocates cite research showing that people are more likely to stay outside if they live in the home and receive services to cope with their physical and psychological disabilities. Such housing is scarce in Los Angeles, and while more is being built, progress is slow and expensive.
This has led many to argue that the city and the county cannot wait to build enough such housing and must immediately begin interventions that will move people off the street to shelters faster.
It has always remained that homelessness is the main problem facing the region, and 94% of voters view homelessness as a serious or very serious problem.
This is almost identical to the level of concern two years ago, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal money the city and county have spent fighting homelessness.
Officials have used the money to fund and support thousands of new temporary housing units.
Additional facilities have helped bolster efforts – mostly by city officials – to clear large camps in parks and other city attractions such as the Venice Promenade.
But the vast majority of voters in the region said homelessness had worsened – 79% said so, compared with 7% who said the situation has improved and 13% who said it has remained the same.
It is difficult to imagine a true picture of how many people are currently homeless. A federal government tally by 2020 found 66,000 people in the county were homeless. This happened in January, before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in full force. The 2021 count has been canceled. Most experts in the region expect that figure to rise when the count is recounted again this winter.
In the Okrug, there are more pessimists about homelessness than optimists, 44–35%.
“I think this reflects how weakened we are,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an interview about the poll results.
“How many years and how many new tents – even if we have success – can we see in the area before we feel like we need some short-term places to stabilize the people on the street?”
Widespread concern – and deep disappointment on the part of many voters – suggests that homelessness will be a major concern for candidates in next year’s election. Los Angeles voters will elect a new mayor for the first time in eight years, and constituency voters will elect members of the supervisory board.
Lawrence “Drew” Whitlock, a 66-year-old painting contractor who lives in Playa del Rey and was another focus group participant, expressed the disappointment felt by many voters. According to him, his truck and his house were robbed and recently a homeless man stabbed him with a knife.
“I don’t take offense at them, I want the best for them,” he said of the homeless in his area.
“I will do everything in my power to help. But it affects the quality of my life, ”he said.
Morino, a student and mother who left Mar Vista, was previously raised in foster care, she now has four foster children, as well as two foster children and a newborn. She said that the children she was raising were homeless and that she also experienced a housing shortage. For her, homelessness is a “pandemic” that the government could not even try to cure, and she saw it with her own eyes.
“Many mayors, governors, townspeople always say: ‘Vote for me, we are going to come to the office and do our job.’ We are going to solve this problem of the homeless, and you are going to pay that amount of taxes, ”she said.
“As if nothing had been done. Taxes have increased. … Our politicians must come up and take responsibility for what is happening on our streets. “
Candidates are well aware that homelessness will be a major concern as they take a stand on the issue and, in some cases, prepare voting steps to highlight their position.
Nearly three quarters of respondents said homelessness should be the most important or very important priority for newly elected or re-elected officials.
“It’s not just that people are unhappy with their leaders. The point is, they don’t really even know what they are doing or who is the leader, who has to do something about this crisis, ”said Eileen Cardona-Arroyo, senior analyst at Hart Research.
Voters are “shocked and upset,” and many are “close to boiling point,” said opinion veteran Peter Hart, who helped oversee the poll. “There is not much optimism.”
Even with the anger surrounding the crisis, survey respondents seem to have a clear understanding of what keeps thousands of Angelina residents sleeping on the streets and who is responsible for overcoming the crisis.
The survey showed widespread agreement that social problems – especially the lack of affordable housing and mental health resources – play an important role in causing homelessness.
Just over 60% of respondents said that the main reason for homelessness was either the lack of affordable housing and wages that did not correspond to the subsistence level (35%), or the inability to provide access to medical care for mental and physical illnesses. (27%).
Only 18% stated that the main reason for homelessness was their own actions and decisions.
How the voter answered this question strongly correlated with other views in the poll. Those who blame widespread social problems for homelessness are far more likely to support government action to combat it.
Black and Hispanic voters most often cited the cost of housing and low wages as the root cause of homelessness. White voters were more likely to cite health care. People who considered themselves conservatives were more likely to point to their own decisions.
Voters were also skeptical about clearing camps without providing people with a place to go, such as a hotel room or other temporary shelter, or services such as medical care.
The majority (64%) said that once the camp is cleared, the homeless are more likely to move to other camps in the region rather than find shelter or permanent housing (19%) or leave the region (10%).
Recent attempts to clear the camps have met with varying degrees of success in placing people in shelter or housing. Public relations officials said their ability to get people off the street depended on the availability of beds in shelters and hotel rooms that the city and county rented for the homeless at the onset of the pandemic.
52% of voters said that providing services to those living in camps should be a higher priority for officials than clearing parks and neighborhoods from camps, which 39% consider the top priority.
In this issue, as in some others, there is a significant difference in terms of race and ethnicity.
The overwhelming majority of black voters, 66%, said officials should prioritize service delivery, while white voters were more severely divided on the issue, 49-40%. Hispanics, 56% -38%, were in favor of service provision. Asian American voters were also highly divided, with 48% favoring clinics and 41% favoring services.
Over the past two years, the city has invested tens of millions of dollars in a range of temporary housing solutions, some of which are not cheap, and has moved forward in creating neighborhoods in the city where homeless people cannot sit, lie or sleep.
Theo Henderson, activist and creator of the podcast “We the Unhousesed,” said he believes voters’ push for quick fixes is partly due to their preference for getting rid of the homeless. He was encouraged to learn that the poll showed that voters believed broader structural forces were the main reason people became homeless.
He hoped that people would take advantage of this knowledge and advocate that less money be spent on the LAPD and more on things that will help people get out of homelessness.
“They don’t want to see poverty,” he said of many voters. “They need to understand that these problems were created a long time ago.”