While Anaheim, San Diego and Pomona make up some of the many cities to individually struggle with a homelessness epidemic, lack of state-wide coordinated efforts continues to contribute to an escalation of the issue and the pessimism regarding a solution.
In 2011, the Amnesty International USA estimated that around 3.5 million people are homeless in the United States while 18.5 million houses are vacant — an approximate ratio of five roofs to every one homeless person.
The statistics help put in perspective how much the efforts to eradicate the issue have failed the American people, especially the most vulnerable.
It shows the urgency to bring new, improved initiatives and explore other avenues when combating a problem that has reached intolerable numbers.
Last year was the deadliest on record for homeless people in Orange County, with 200 men, women and children that lived on the streets dying as a result of conditions linked to homelessness, according to the Orange County Register.
The death totals for homeless people in the county have jumped in each of the past six years, doubling over the last half decade according to the Orange County Register.
Such conditions include alcohol and drug addiction, mental illnesses, violence and overall neglect.
While those are not easily treatable overnight, a solution to the homelessness crisis must inevitably address them and put mental health and addiction treatment on the forefront of the fight if we want lasting solutions instead of quick, momentary fixes.
After removing bus benches close to Disneyland because homeless people spending the night did not fit the desired definition of “where dreams come true” or “happiest place on Earth,” the city of Anaheim has declared state of emergency due to its homeless crisis.
The city alone accounts for a homeless population of approximately 900, which adds up to almost 20 percent of Orange County’s total of over 4,700, according to the Orange County Homeless Management Information System.
Just after Hepatitis A resulted in 16 deaths and hundreds more sickened in the San Diego County, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has announced on Tuesday an outbreak of the virus, which has homelessness and drug use as the main contributing factors to its diffusion.
Susan Price, who coordinates the county’s services for the homeless population, blames the epidemic on California’s Prop. 47 a prison reform measure, which has reduced sentences on nonviolent drug crimes.
“The law which passed in 2014, unintentionally increased the number of addicts out on the streets,” Price said in a statement to the Orange County Register.
When homelessness is dealt with solely on a local level, with occasional attention drawn by crippling numbers and the declaration of a state of emergency, it will only be possible to treat symptoms while a cure remains inviable and out of reach.
Local resources and approaches can without a doubt have great impact and cause significant mobilization, but it has been proven that by itself, it is not enough.
State-wide initiatives are much needed and called for, and with winter just around the corner, it is better to invest in a bigger operation sooner than later — but still better later than never.