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Karen Bass Pledges To Tackle Homelessness Immediately; Experts Weigh In

Belongings are crowded under an overpass with one person sitting in the middle of them.
Homeless encampments and people living in cars are up 20% from last year.
(cyna79 via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr))
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Approach almost anyone who lives in Los Angeles to talk about the state of the city and it's pretty much guaranteed they’ll tell you homelessness is where they want to see change. So let’s talk about that, shall we?

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What Bass Has Pledged

We’ve told you Mayor-elect Karen Bass pledged to tackle the issue immediately when she takes office on Dec. 12 and declare a state of emergency.

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In her first year, she said she wants to house 15,000 people and end encampments. She told LAist back in September her plan to get this done includes the “construction of temporary and permanent housing… and marshaling the resources of the city, county, state and federal governments around a single plan to address this crisis."

This all sounds like progress, but in a city that struggles with the seemingly never-ending issue of homelessness, what should Bass prioritize? What can she actually do?  

In How To LA’s latest podcast episode, our host Brian De Los Santos talks to a couple of experts to get some thoughts on this question. Gary Dean Painter is director of USC’s Homelessness Policy Research Institute and Theo Henderson is an advocate for the unhoused who has received a lot of attention for his work, especially as someone who was previously unhoused himself.

Painter agrees that declaring homelessness a crisis, like you would a natural disaster, could be a good move to help marshal resources. But Bass needs the backing of the L.A. City Council to do that. So, Painter said, the mayor-elect needs a coordinated effort. He anticipates she will work closely with various department heads within the city and reach out to partner agencies in the county.

One controversial issue that has come up is the ordinance 41.18, which is known as the “anti-camping law” because it bans people from sleeping outdoors near public spaces like schools, parks and libraries. Bass has supported it in part because, as she told LAist, she believes it is “unacceptable for homeless encampments to exist near schools and child care centers.”

But Painter said that the ordinance doesn’t actually address homelessness, noting that 59% of single people who have been unhoused for less than a year are in that situation because of economic insecurity. Painter says:

"The mayor's really going to have to work with the city council to make sure that there aren't ordinances passed that are just kind of putting band-aids on issues around where people are allowed to, or not allowed to, sleep."

The solution, said Theo Henderson, is supportive housing and services, not shelters.

"The reality is when you’re in traumatic situations or have various types of illnesses or dealing with the demons of living out on the street, you’re not going to be meeting proper and perfect people at all times,” Henderson said. “We [need to] meet them where they are, have harm reduction training… get them well…the support of housing if they have relapses.”

The problem with taking people off the streets, Painter noted, is that some people may prefer it that way, instead of the alternatives that have been offered, like shelters. However, there are thousands of people living outside, he said, and some do want to come inside.

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“I think we can do that," he said," but we can't offer people situations that are going to put them at risk or retraumatize them based on things that they've gone through.

There’s a lot more that this latest episode of How To LA covers that can help you better understand this crisis. You can listen here.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

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Wait! One More Thing...

Concerns Of Lead Poisoning In Toddler Sippy Cups

a picture of pink, teal, blue and green sippy cups.
The November recall applies to the Green Sprouts 6-ounce Stainless Steel Sippy Cup, Sip & Straw Cup and its 8-ounce Stainless Steel Straw Bottle. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)
( (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission))

You might see one less baby product at Whole Foods, Buy Buy Baby and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Green Sprouts, the creator of baby products like stainless-steel cups and bottles, is recalling some of their items because of a lead poisoning hazard.

There’s only been seven reports of lead exposure from these products and no one has been harmed. There will just be fewer sippy cups to go around. To understand how we got to this point, read on to learn more.

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