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Can L.A. County Wipe Out Homelessness in 5 Years?

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Photo by malingering via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Photo by malingering via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
Imagine Los Angeles County with a homeless population that is 70 or more per cent smaller than it is today. That's the vision according to a task force report issued by he United Way and the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, according to KPCC. They have a plan to end homelessness in L.A. County in five years.

Los Angeles Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness Jerry Neuman believes this is possible, and he points to successful reductions in homeless populations in other U.S. cities such as Denver, New York, and Philadelphia is both proof, and inspiration. We can do it here in L.A. County--where we have nearly 50,000 homeless people--if we are "smart."

Where we are lacking smarts, says Neuman, is that we focus on providing housing, "but not the extra help [homeless individulas] need." That other help means providing "services around you that will support you in your endeavor to become a vital member of society." Specifically, treatment for addiction and alcoholism, mental health care, and health care.

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For example, giving housing priority to chronically homeless individuals with mental health issues and getting them into treatment will mean that they have the tools to remove themselves from the homeless population. If a police officer can send a mentally ill homeless person to a designated facility, rather than jail, that person will get the care that they need in the right place. He cites Denver's outreach program as an example of what L.A. could do.

Neuman says financially, it's not a matter of spending more, but rather, "you just spend what you’ve got smarter."