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Housing and Homelessness

Young People Left Out Of Discussion At Mayoral Candidates Forum To Address LA's Homelessness Crisis

the top of city hall can be seen against a blue sky and clouds with green leafy trees in the foreground.
The mayoral primary is June 7.
(Ethan Ward
/
LAist)
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Unhoused service providers, policy experts and people with lived experience with homelessness convened at a forum Tuesday evening to learn how Los Angeles mayoral candidates plan to help unhoused people.

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Young People Left Out Of Discussion At Mayoral Candidates Forum To Address LA's Homelessness Crisis

The two-hour forum attracted four of the candidates: L.A. City Councilmembers Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass.

They fielded questions that covered a range of topics from short and long-term housing solutions to whether a federal emergency response is needed. One thing noticeably absent from the conversation was how current systems aren’t providing enough help to unhoused young people.

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A screen shot from a zoom webinar. The image shows four blocks each with a different person. Starting clockwise top left: Karen Bass is smiling and wearing a navy blazer with a blue shirt underneath while siting in a beige room with flowers next to her. Joe Buscaino is sitting in an office wearing a gray blazer and white collared shirt. Mike Feuer is wearing a blue collared shirt with a red and blue striped tie, Kevin de León is sitting in in a room with a plant behind him and wearing a navy gray suit with a shirt and tie.
Some of the city of L.A. mayoral candidates who attended the Provider Alliance forum during a webinar. Clockwise from top left: U.S. Representative Karen Bass, L.A. City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, and L.A. City Councilmember Kevin de León.
(Ethan Ward
/
LAist)

“Let’s pay attention to the systems that we can change and hold more accountable,” said Heather Carmichael, executive director of My Friend’s Place, a nonprofit that works with unhoused youth, 30% of whom identify as LGBTQ+. Carmichael said young people often aren’t central to conversations about homelessness. She said she also wanted to hear more about how young Black, queer or transgender individuals are overrepresented in the unhoused population.

The forum was moderated by the Provider Alliance to End Homelessness, a coalition of 85 organizations in L.A. County that provides services and housing to people experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

Although the moderators asked mayoral candidates their views on shelter solutions for women who are survivors of domestic violence, there was also no discussion about the housing needs of transgender or nonbinary individuals. For those in that group experiencing homelessness there are few options for them to obtain safe shelter in the city.

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“There was no conversation about the systemic issues here, but I appreciated at one point the need to address the drivers,” Carmichael said.

She did note that there was some limited discussion of what drives homelessness among these groups of people, include a foster care system that leaves many young people unhoused once they turn 18 and the juvenile delinquency system.

Homelessness was ranked as the number one issue for L.A. voters in a Dec. 2021 poll by the Los Angeles Business Council. Dora Leong Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends, said in a statement that every member of the Provider Alliance is committed to ending homelessness.

“We continue to work tirelessly, in partnership with members of the community, people with lived experience of homelessness and elected officials, to end this crisis,” she said. “It's vital that we build a strong partnership and work together with the next Mayor of Los Angeles to bring our neighbors off the streets, provide them with the services they need, and prevent the citizens of L.A. from falling into homelessness in the first place.”

What questions do you have about homelessness?
Ethan Ward for a time lived in his car while attending community college. That experience informs his reporting on one of the most pressing issues in Southern California.