As a homelessness crisis escalates in each Los Angeles County and neighboring Orange County, California, members of Catholic Worker communities have taken motion to encourage native governments and church buildings to reply with constructive options moderately than criminalizing or ignoring these in want of housing.
“I want Christians to really think about the homelessness problem in their area and if they are truly fulfilling the core of Christ’s message, which is to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ ” stated Los Angeles Catholic Worker Kaleb Havens.
On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, Havens chained himself to the skin of a constructing and commenced a hunger strike which can final till Easter except native officers meet his calls for to extend out there housing and providers.
Meanwhile, the Orange County Catholic Worker and 7 individuals experiencing homelessness have an ongoing lawsuit in opposition to Orange County and the cities of Orange, Costa Mesa and Anaheim, filed Jan. 29 after county officers tried to clear a big homeless encampment close to the Santa Ana River.
These actions come because the quantity of individuals with out housing grows quickly in each counties. In Los Angeles County, about 58,000 individuals are homeless on any given evening; homelessness within the metropolis of Los Angeles has elevated 49 % since 2013, in response to an LA Times editorial.
While locals just lately voted to dedicate over $1 billion to supportive housing and providers, some say this funding is not being put to make use of rapidly sufficient given the urgency of the crisis.
“We have the money, but the public will isn’t there,” Havens stated. People with out housing are all the time instructed to anticipate motion in a couple of years, he stated and have “been waiting for a long time for a solution that matches the scope of the problem.”
Havens is asking officers to impose a 1 % emptiness tax to discourage landowners from leaving their properties empty as an alternative of utilizing them for housing; he has additionally demanded “more jobs, more parks, cleaner parks, [and] more toilets.”
Havens stated he’ll finish his hunger strike and permit himself to be unchained if Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and 14th District Councilmember José Huizar “intensely vocalize support for our demands.” Catholic Workers tried to ship keys to Havens’ chains to each politicians after a Feb. 14 metropolis council assembly, though Garcetti’s deputy press secretary Anna Bahr says he didn’t attend the assembly and by no means obtained a key.
By March 19, Huizar had visited Havens and Garcetti had referred to as him, however Havens hadn’t allowed both to unlock him.
In an electronic mail to NCR, Bahr stated Garcetti shares Havens’ purpose and “is moved by his dedication to the cause,” however is worried about his well being. She additionally stated Garcetti’s workers and Havens proceed to debate growing religion neighborhood involvement in aiding homeless individuals.
“Mayor Garcetti spends more time on L.A.’s homelessness crisis than on any other issue facing the city,” Bahr wrote, naming a number of initiatives the mayor supported or is selling to enhance housing and providers.
Rick Coca, communications director and senior advisor for Huizar, stated that “homelessness and solutions we need to be pursuing” are additionally Huizar’s largest focus.
“The shelter we’re seeking needs to be identified and funded as quickly as possible,” Huizar stated in a press release Coca emailed to NCR. “Kaleb’s hunger strike brings much-needed attention to that need.”
Coca stated that Havens and Huizar mentioned “common ground” throughout their assembly March 6; Havens then helped get supporters to attend a committee assembly to advertise two ordinances Huizar helps geared toward expediting the creation of everlasting supportive housing.
Neither Bahr nor Coca clarified what the impediment is to the politicians totally assembly Havens’ calls for and permitting him to finish his strike, though Coca stated Huizar is contemplating unlocking Havens if he is ready to go to him once more.
While nonetheless awaiting a stronger authorities response, Havens stated public response has far surpassed his expectations.
“I think the action has really done what I hoped it would, which is start this conversation at a more personal level for people,” Havens stated. “I’m not trying to be a martyr or anything, but I’m taking on the perils of homelessness to try to build that connection with people who might not have it already.”
Havens added that he did his motion throughout Lent as a result of he significantly hoped to achieve individuals of religion. He held up the Catholic Worker motion for instance of how Christians ought to reply to homelessness and credited the motion with immersing him in points affecting homeless individuals.
Jordan Hoiberg, a member of the Orange County Catholic Worker, additionally stated the Catholic Worker mannequin permits him to befriend homeless individuals, hear about their issues, and use “that perspective to help them in ways other groups can’t or won’t,” particularly via “addressing the social justice side of homelessness.”
Fewer than 5,000 individuals have been with out housing in Orange County in 2017, however that quantity is a 13 % enhance since 2013 and the quantity of homeless deaths has risen way more dramatically throughout that interval, growing by 64 %.
Finding a spot to sleep
Advocates like Hoiberg are significantly involved that anti-camping ordinances in all of the county’s 34 cities have successfully made homelessness against the law, pushing homeless people right into a two-mile lengthy encampment on county land close to the Santa Ana River. At its largest, the encampment housed 800-1,200 individuals as a result of it was one of the few protected locations homeless individuals might keep with out being penalized by legislation enforcement or having their property seized.
When the county started its makes an attempt to clear the camp Jan. 22, advocates apprehensive that with no various housing supplied, residents could be compelled again into the cities the place they might once more be criminalized.
The core of the lawsuit filed Jan. 29 by the Orange County Catholic Worker and 7 homeless people is that the county and cities “play this game of ping pong, trying to move homeless people around back and forth, and the tools that they use to do that are tools of criminalization which are cruel and unusual punishment,” Hoiberg stated.
As a consequence of the lawsuit, Judge David Carter granted a short lived restraining order on the camp’s closure Feb. 6, which was lifted Feb. 20 after each side reached an settlement for officers to seek out housing or present motel vouchers for residents of the camp whereas working to create extra everlasting options.
Carter remains to be supervising the method to make sure that individuals do not find yourself again on the streets. Most just lately, he held a March 17 listening to to resolve considerations about expiring motel vouchers.
While many are unimpressed with the county’s observe report, “I think there’s a lot of trust in Judge Carter and his ability to effectively oversee this,” Hoiberg stated. He later added that for the reason that cities cannot tackle the problem alone, the answer needs to be “the responsibility of the county government, and they’ve kind of derelicted that duty.”
According to Orange County interim public data supervisor Jennifer Nentwig, the county is taking duty. Nentwig stated they just lately added 165 beds to native shelters and that county outreach employees are conducting medical assessments and recommending sources to the 697 people in motel housing.
Nentwig additionally highlighted the county’s previous efforts, together with the hiring of a director of care coordinator to assist cities share finest practices and sources and the institution of the Courtyard Transitional Shelter in October 2016.
While supportive of shelters expansions, Hoiberg stated not all shelters are a very good match for all people who want housing, together with these with caretakers, bodily disabilities, pets, crowd-induced anxiousness, or jobs and appointments that intervene with required arrival instances at shelters.
Because of this, Hoiberg stated, it is necessary that the county is trying into opening a “whole array” of housing for individuals with numerous wants. Hoiberg additionally emphasised the necessity to proceed the lawsuit, which objects to anti-camping ordinances, so as to defend individuals who cannot discover a shelter that works for them.
“There’s a lot of people who just end up on the streets and, I think, still will end up on the streets even if there are expanded shelters,” stated Hoiberg. “I think it’s important that they don’t face criminalization just because of that.”
[Maria Benevento is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is [email protected]]