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Morning Brief: LA’s Black Unhoused Crisis, The Cold, Speeding In LA

Silhouettes of human figures recede to the horizon in a dark ocean.
Black people are less than 10 percent of L.A.‘s population, but they make up one-third among those who experience homelessness.
(Alborz Kamalizad
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Feb. 23.

It’s plainly disproportionate. And painfully disquieting. 

Black people make up 8% of L.A.’s total population and 34% of the city’s unhoused community.

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The latter statistic, pulled from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2020 point-in-time homeless count, should give pause. The numerical disparity is wide and the causes behind it are many.

Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of the L.A. chapter of Black Lives Matter, told my colleague Ethan Ward about one of the major factors: funding. She’s enraged by the ease with which the city will allocate billions of dollars to the city’s police budget while shorting services for the unhoused.

“We can solve homelessness with half that budget,” Abdullah said.

This year, L.A. will spend $801 million on the homelessness crisis, while increasing the LAPD’s budget, which was roughly $3 billion last year, by 12%.

But even beyond the bills, the source of the problem sits elsewhere on paper, right in the history books.

Mark Vestal, the co-author of the 2021 UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy report, “Making of a Crisis: The History of Homelessness in L.A.,” says a century of racist housing policy prevented Black Angelenos from getting ahead and fairly accessing the path to homeownership.

“The Great Depression sets us up for the system we have today,” Vestal said. “Black folks were segregated in inner cities and subject to predatory mortgage markets and home buying schemes that continued to suck Black dollars and wealth from bank accounts for decades.” 

And the above injustices only cover some of the bases behind the crisis. A crisis that is a perpetuation of an inhumane cycle experienced by Black Americans since this country was founded. A crisis that is ever-evident for anyone who lives here and has eyes.

“People haven’t cared about Black men living in squalor until we saw them in their communities living in squalor,” Veronica Lewis, the director of the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) said. “Every time I go downtown, the sea of Black mens’ faces is so heartbreaking.”

I’ll be the first to say that a newsletter’s length will sell this reporting short — read Ethan Ward’s full article right here.

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Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go...Temperamental Temperatures And Diving Snow Lines

Storm clouds loom over snow covered mountains.
Snow blankets the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles, California on December 26, 2019 after a cold winter storm brought heavy rain, snow and strong winds to much of southern California. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
(ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

On my morning walk, an ever-appropriate song began rebounding between my temples. The Neighborhood’s “Sweater Weather.” And, more specifically, the song’s hook:

“It’s too cold for you here.”

Despite growing up in the Northeast, my blood has gotten thinner than Crystal Light, and I am, quite literally, shook by the current chill throughout the region. Certain local mountains can expect snow, and Coastal L.A. will see highs in the 50s through Wednesday. No thank you.

Bundle yourself with knowledge with this LAist weather report.

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