Last week I attended a Los Angeles City Council meeting with members of LA CAN. On the agenda was a vote on a proposed shelter for Korea Town. The president of the council Wesson allowed speakers on each side 25 minutes to state their case. The chambers were full and not everyone was allowed into the meeting.
Homeowners and people who live in Korea Town were divided about the shelter going into their area. The mayor’s A Bridge Home would put similar shelters in each of the city’s council districts. Never mentioned at this meeting was what will happen to the thousands of people who do not make it into one of these shelters.
Since the mayor is also putting over $20 million into increased police enforcement and sanitation workers, the belief is that this plan will start criminalizing homelessness, even though there is nowhere for the thousands left out of A Bridge Home to go.
LA CAN has started a petition for a forensic audit of how the HHH money is being spent. The fear is that some of the money designed to be used only for permanent housing is being used for other things such as increased sweeps.
The mayor and city council members owe it to the people of Los Angeles and especially the homeless, to tell their plans for the thousands left out of the mayor’s plan. We should also be asking why the shelters are only scheduled to exist for 3 years. With the price of housing, how can they expect homelessness to go away in a period of 3 years?
A Bridge Home seems very unrealistic given the number of homeless and the price of housing in the area. It is time we hold city council accountable and demand answers.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing spending $20 million dollars on building emergency shelters in each of the 15 districts in Los Angeles and providing the city with more police and sanitation workers for homeless sweeps in the city’s A Bridge Home program. This proposal is not viable as a solution to the homeless crisis Los Angeles and will not work as a temporary fix.
The most important reason his solution will not work is that the numbers don’t match. Garcetti’s proposal to put a shelter in each district will not have enough beds to serve all of the homeless in those areas. For example, a proposed shelter in Korea Town would provide 65 beds to an area with 368 homeless. Where are the other 303 going to sleep? Providing a shelter with only 65 beds would put the other 303 people at risk for being arrested or being given tickets for sleeping on the sidewalk which they would not be able to pay. Possibly ending in incarceration for not paying a ticket. This creates a situation where housing and employment would be more difficult to find.
Shelters are not permanent housing, can be dangerous and have time limits for those staying in them. These time limits can be a couple of days weeks or months. If at the end of their stay in the shelter a person has not found permanent housing they are sent back to live in the street. Many people staying at shelters experience violence from others who are staying in them or sometimes from staff. The large numbers of people staying in a confined area make it hard to properly ensure personal safety. People down on their luck financially are mixed in with drug addicts and felons creating dangerous conditions.
There is no follow up from staff as to what happens to or where people end up living after leaving a shelter. Because of the time limitations very few people leaving a shelter end up with permanent housing, as permanent housing is not available. I personally was in a shelter where I was asked to leave one week prior to my having a place to stay. The staff at the shelter knew I had a place to stay in one week and made me leave anyway. This left me with nowhere to stay for a week. This shelter and its staff failed to keep me safe, took 30% of the income I was making and intentionally made me homeless again. I call this the circle of homelessness where one is given shelter for a short period of time and sent back out on the street. Being homeless is a barrier to employment as employers require workers to have an address, making it hard to get housing as most housing requires some type of income. This creates long periods of homelessness for many people.
The only solution to homelessness is permanent housing. The $20 that Mayor Garcetti wants to spend on temporary shelters and homeless sweeps by the police and sanitation workers would be better spent on permanent housing. The homeless do not need shampoo, backpacks or socks. The homeless need housing.
The Hate Movement began during the Obama Administration and has continued on into the Trump Administration. I am writing this as a historical record of what has happened to me over the last 8 years so that future generations can learn from the mistakes of the past, and I do not mean mine.
The last 8 years of my life have been nothing short of terrifying. Terrifying that American society has sunk this low. I am a highly educated person, having earned a master’s degree in 2003. Until March of 2009, I worked for a Canadian insurance company with a salary of $45,000 per year. I lived in a condo, owned a vehicle and lead a fairly normal life. My relationship of 13 years had ended a few years before leaving me in debt as I had supported us for most of those 13 years.
Because of the debt, which was not only accumulated by me, but I was the one stuck with paying it off after the relationship ended, I was staying with a friend as I could not afford to rent an apartment of my own. When that ended I rented a room from a stranger.
The house I lived in was shared by my landlord and another man who was an artist. I had a small room on the first floor. Having gone from a condo to a room I had to put most of my belongings in storage. This was a huge adjustment for me as I had lived on my own in apartments or condos since age 18. I did not feel like myself living in a stranger’s house, having to live by their rules. I had always been very independent and responsible. Not only had my relationship ended but so had my independence.
In his book The Prophets, Abraham Joshua Heschel stated, “The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world. There is no society to which Amos’ words would not apply.
Hear this you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying: when will the new moon be over that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great, and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and sell the refuse of the wheat. Amos 8:4-6.
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a spiritual leader who cared not only for his own people, but for all people the world over. After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust he went on to become a rabbinical leader, professor, activist and author, He believed in social action and fought for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and protested against the Viet Nam war. He saw many changes in his lifetime and was responsible for bringing about positive societal changes himself.
Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in 1907 in Warsaw Poland. He descended from preeminent European rabbis on both sides of his family. Through the Holocaust he lost most of his family while still a young man. His father died when he was 9. His sister Esther was killed in a German bombing. His mother was murdered by the Nazis and his other 2 sisters died in a concentration camp.
Heschel attended school where he studied Talmud and Kabbalah. he then moved to Berlin and attended a university where he also taught Talmud. In 1937 Martin Buber appointed him his succesor at the Central Organiation for Jewish Adult Education.
In 1938 while renting a room in Frankfurt, Germany he was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Poland. Ten months later He left Warsaw for London with the help of HUC president Julian Morgenstern. He never returned to Poland, Germany or Austria. He wrote,
“If I should go to Poland or Germany, every stone, every tree would remind me of contempt, hatred, murder, of children killed, mothers burned alive, of human beings asphyxiated.”
Move to the United States
Heschel moved to the United States in 1940, relocating to New York City. He then served on the faculty of the Hebrew Union College (HUC) for 5 years. He married Sylvia Straus, a concert pianist in Los Angeles, California. In that same year he took a position at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the main seminary of Conservative Judaism. He was professor of Jewish ethics and mysticism until his eath in 1972.
A Call to Social Action
Believing the teachings of the Hebrew prophets were a call for social action, Heschel worked for African American civil rights and met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr while at a conference on race and religion in Chicago. He marched with Dr. King in Selma. He also spoke out against the war in Viet Nam, stating in an interview on The External Light on NBC in 1972,
“How can I pray when I have on my conscience the awareness that I am co-responsible for the death of innocent peope in Vietnam? In a free society, some are guilty, all are responsible.”
The presence of God
Abraham Joshua Heschel rose above the tragedy of the Holocaust to live a life dedicated to teaching the wisdom of the Judaism and participating in social action. He once said,
“We are called upon to be an image of God. You see God is absent, invisible, and the task of a human being is to represent the Divine, to be a reminder of the presence of God.”