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As Homelessness Numbers Rise, Some Are Losing Patience With Politicians

A small homeless encampment near City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, March 24. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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In previous years, politicians have said it will just take a little more time for increased spending on homelessness to make a difference on the streets.

Robin Petering, who holds a doctorate in social work and runs Lens Co, a policy advocacy organization, is losing her patience.

“Two years after double digit increases, how can we have any trust in our electeds that that won’t continue to happen?" she said.

Petering works largely with youth and young adults who are homeless, or about to be. She says America's social safety net is threadbare, and that there's little public assistance to offer people before they become homeless. They only receive services once they’ve lost their home.

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“We see that the homelessness system becomes the entrypoint for many,” she said.

But looking forward, even that homeless system is facing uncertainty, because it relies on sales tax revenue, which is dropping.

“We’ve already been told that the Measure H dollars going forward are going to be drastically reduced,” she said. (In March 2017, voters approved Measure H, which calls for a ¼ percent increase to the County’s sales tax to provide ongoing revenue for homelessness programs.)

That means a lot of uncertainty. Experts say the pandemic and associated recession might send thousands more to the street.


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