Every night, tens of thousands of people bed down in shelters, in their cars, or on the street. The causes are myriad. Some are homeless because of bad luck. Some are trying to escape abusive homes. The increasing cost of housing due to the chronic undersupply of new homes puts many hard-working households at risk of losing their homes every month. Many have severe mental health problems and can’t access the services they need.
L.A. County’s homeless problem is the worst in the nation and Santa Monicans will have a chance to help end homelessness this March by voting in favor of Measure H, a county-wide quarter-cent sales tax increase to provide these people the services they need.
While the Santa Monica Next editorial board strongly encourages Santa Monicans to mark “Yes” for Measure H on their ballot this March, that alone won’t be enough to tackle the monumental problem that is homelessness in Los Angeles County. Also in March, the city of Los Angeles will vote on Measure S, a de facto ban on most new housing, including permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness and subsidized housing for low-income households, many of whom are at risk of becoming homeless.
If Measure S passes, it would devastate the ability of the largest city in our region (and Santa Monica’s neighbor on three sides) to address one of the fundamental causes of homelessness — the lack of affordable homes — despite the infusion of new resources Measure H would bring.
While we Santa Monicans get to vote on Measure H, we don’t get to vote on Measure S. Still, many of us live regional lives. We may work or play across in Los Angeles. We certainly know people who live in Los Angeles and they will be voting on Measure S.
Santa Monica Next strongly encourages Santa Monicans to vote YES on H and to talk to their friends, family, and coworkers who vote in Los Angeles about the importance of voting NO on S.
These two measures are inextricably linked. In November, Los Angeles passed Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to build new housing for people struggling with homelessness. While the city identified 10 sites for housing of this kind, Measure S would make it impossible to build permanent supportive housing at nine of those sites. In addition to banning new affordable housing, Measure S will also cause rents to continue to rise at unsustainable rates, increasing the number of people in our region who are at risk of becoming homeless.
In Santa Monica, we rejected a similarly pernicious anti-housing measure in November when we defeated Measure LV by nearly 11 percentage points and we need to help our friends and neighbors in Los Angeles to reject Measure S if we want a more equitable region.
Measure H would pay for services to help the residents of those new homes, but without roofs over their heads, services alone won’t be enough to help them to the full extent that they need to get back on their feet.
Our regional homelessness crisis is as much a housing crisis as it is a mental health crisis. Measure H can help us get those on the street the mental health services and the life skills training they need to get better, but without adequate housing for the tens of thousands of people struggling with homelessness and the hundreds of thousands more who live month-to-month on the edge of homelessness, we will never be able to actually solve this problem.