“Our homelessness crisis is a national disgrace,” according to the L.A. Times editorial board in a series of six editorials.
Many people think of homelessness as a problem of substance abusers and mentally ill people, of chronic skid row street-dwellers pushing shopping carts. But increasingly, the crisis in Los Angeles today is about a less visible (but more numerous) group of “economically homeless” people. These are people who have been driven onto the streets or into shelters by hard times, bad luck and California’s irresponsible failure to address its own housing needs.
Consider Nadia, whose story has become typical. When she decided she had to end her abusive marriage, she knew it would be hard to find an affordable place to live with her three young children. With her husband, she had paid $2,000 a month for a three-bedroom condo in the San Fernando Valley, but prices were rising rapidly, and now two-bedroom apartments in the area were going for $2,400 — an impossible rent for a single parent who worked part time at Magic Mountain.
For months she hunted while staying with family and friends. She qualified for a unit in a low-income housing project, but the waiting list was two years long. She obtained a federal Section 8 voucher to subsidize the rent in a market-rate apartment, but landlord after landlord refused to accept Section 8, or charged a rent that was too high to meet the federal government’s unrealistically low “fair-market rent” limit.
Nadia and her rambunctious young kids eventually wore out their welcome at the houses where they were staying. They found themselves left with little choice, with neither a place of their own nor a friend to fall back on. Last summer, they took refuge at San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission’s shelter for homeless families.