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Homelessness Fuels a Backlash in California

The Golden State's ongoing homelessness crisis has residents on edge and is testing the limits of empathy in a state known for its liberal values.
November 1, 2019, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Skid Row Los Angeles
Russ Allison Loar

"Homelessness has been an intractable problem in the largest California cities for decades, but it has surged in some areas in recent years," write Thomas Fuller, Tim Arango, and Louis Keene. That surge has many residents "weighing concerns for the less fortunate against disruptions to their own quality of life."

In Los Angeles, some of that frustration stems from a perceived lack of progress after a countywide sales tax increase (Measure H) and a city bond measure (Proposition HHH) passed on the promise to make a dent. "Some Los Angeles officials have recently called for the governor to declare a state of emergency to free up funding for addressing homelessness, similar to what has been done to address natural disasters."

The reasons for California's homelessness problem are a matter of heated debate, but it's clear that a number of issues are involved, including "skyrocketing housing prices, a widening gap between the rich and poor and the persistent presence on city streets of the mentally ill and drug-dependent despite billions of dollars spent to help them."

While advocates tend to cite out-of-reach housing costs as the main causal factor, some California residents argue that "the crisis is being misdiagnosed as purely a lack of housing." In October, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that the city would enforce a law making it easier to remove the mentally ill from the streets.
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Published on Monday, October 21, 2019 in The New York Times
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