In an effort to promote a Right to Housing framework in Los Angeles, City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas Tuesday released the first in a series of videos to show the public what it could mean for Los Angeles.
“Just as we have the right to vote, the right to clean air, the right to an education, we need a right to housing,” Ridley-Thomas said in the video. “It is an obligation on government to house every man, every woman and every child in our city.”
Ridley-Thomas introduced a motion that was unanimously approved by the City Council on March 3 to have the city explore establishing a Right to Housing.
“When we talk about a `Right to Housing,’ we talk about creating a safety net that obligates the government to not only aid Angelenos in transitioning off the streets and into interim and permanent housing, but also to prevent homelessness in the first place,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Just as we have the right to vote and a right to clean air — every man, woman and child needs a place to call home.”
Ridley-Thomas’ office cited a poll that found 60% of Californians support having a legally enforceable right to housing. About 568,000 people in the United States are experiencing homelessness, with 151,000 in California, 66,436 in Los Angeles County and 41,290 in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s most recent homelessness count. The 2020 count was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every day, 207 people find their way back into housing, either with help or on their own, but 227 additional people fall into homelessness, according to Ridley-Thomas. His motion calls for the city to identify resources, propose a strategy and timeline for a Right to Housing framework and consult with community leaders, nonprofits, academics, philanthrapists, businesses, government officials, legal advocates, tenants and people who have experienced homelessness themselves.
“To get ahead of this crisis, we must scale up our resources and our response. We can do this by investing in prevention, interim housing, supportive housing, and adequate street engagement to help people where and how they need it,” Ridley-Thomas said.
Some critics of a Right to Housing say that the policy has had unintended consequences in New York, where instead of solving homelessness, it has pushed homeless people out of sight and into temporary shelters.
“If West Coast cities follow in New York’s footsteps, the same Bureaucracy 101 outcome could ensue: `temporary’ shelters become a self-perpetuating industry with no incentive to change course,” Deborah Padgett, a professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work, wrote in a December 2019 Ozy article. She noted that New York City’s annual homeless budget is more than $3 billion, and 80% of it goes to shelter providers.
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