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Homeless population increases 12% in L.A. County

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Homelessness in Los Angeles County increased by 12% over the past year to reach an estimated 58,936 people, according to figures released June 4, with the region’s housing costs outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities can find them shelter.

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By Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Homelessness in Los Angeles County increased by 12% over the past year to reach an estimated 58,936 people, according to figures released June 4, with the region’s housing costs outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities can find them shelter.

According to data released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, nearly three-quarters of homeless people are living in cars, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

“We have the largest unsheltered population in the nation and one of the largest homeless counts across America,” said Peter Lynn, director of the authority. “Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

The city of Los Angeles saw a 16% increase in its homelessness numbers.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, who chairs the county board, said she anticipated the rise given the increasing number of homeless encampments but called the figures “very disappointing, very troubling, very sad,” particularly after a 4% drop in the numbers last year.

Though the number of chronically homeless individuals increased by 17%, demographers and statisticians responsible for the count said they believe the real issue is the influx of newly homeless people.

Phil Ansell, who runs the county’s Homeless Initiative, said it may seem counterintuitive, but “a booming economy can actually lead to an increase in homelessness.”

He said that in a growing economy, rental rates have outpaced wages, particularly for people living at the margins and earning minimum wage. A minimum-wage employee would have to work 79 hours a week at $13.25 per hour to afford the rent in an average one-bedroom apartment, according to the homeless services authority.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti echoed that sentiment, calling the increase in homelessness “heartbreaking.”

“These results remind us of a difficult truth: skyrocketing rents statewide and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with an epidemic of untreated trauma and mental illness, is pushing people into homelessness faster than they can be lifted out,” he said.

The numbers are up despite tens of thousands of people who have moved off the streets and into permanent housing. In the last year alone, the county has helped 21,631 people find permanent homes while another 27,080 who were homeless at some point during the year were able to lift themselves out of homelessness, according to the data.

The number of homeless veterans was roughly flat year-over-year, but there were 7% more homeless senior citizens — after a meaningful decrease last year — and demographers saw a 24% jump in homeless youth. Researchers from USC who worked on the count said they believe improved methodologies were responsible for part of the increase in young adults.

Though people suffering from severe mental illness or with substance-abuse problems are among the most visible members of the homeless community, they make up just 29% of the total homeless population.

Black Angelenos are four times more likely to end up homeless, a finding consistent with data from earlier counts that Lynn attributed to “deep institutional racism in the culture.”

While the number of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless was up, most homeless families are in shelters or other bridge housing, according to the homeless services authority.

Economic hardship was the number one reason cited by newly homeless individuals for their plight. The second most common trigger was a lack of a support network and a personal crisis like a divorce. And 5% of those represented in the overall count said they were fleeing domestic violence.

The county has more than doubled its capacity to house people over the last five years, in part due to voter’s 2017 approval of a quarter-cent sales tax increase under Measure H in 2017. In 2016, voters in the city of Los Angeles approved Measure HHH, which authorized a $1.2 billion bond to build about 10,000 units of supportive housing.

But only 1,397 units are on track to be available in fiscal year 2019-20, according to the authority.

Hahn noted that a study by the nonprofit California Housing Partnership Corporation estimates that the county needs more than 500,000 affordable units to bring housing supply in line with demand from low-income residents.

Even at the rate of 10,000 units annually, “that’s 50 years before we will be able to build the number of affordable units we need,” Hahn said.

And those units cost an average of $450,000 to $500,000 to build, Hahn said, calling the number “staggering.”

County officials have backed a bill to speed conversions of motels into supportive housing units and is considering housing homeless veterans at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall downtown, among other local efforts to increase the amount of shelter space, bridge housing and permanent supportive housing units as quickly as possible.

The county also has put a 3% cap on rental increases in unincorporated areas where they have that authority. However, California voters rejected a 2018 proposal to give local governments more latitude to enact rent controls.

Ansell said the state can take action immediately on three key issue that could help alleviate the problem, including pending legislation prohibiting rent gouging, evictions without cause and discrimination against renters with housing subsidies.

Los Angeles County officials said they are adding strategies geared at combating other economic factors. When the Board of Supervisors approved $460 million in 2019-20 Measure H spending on homelessness three weeks ago, it focused on finding ways to offset rising rental rates and to provide opportunities for steady employment through an employment task force and jobs training program.

But capacity constraints mean it will be some time before tent camps disappear and fewer people are forced to live in their cars.

“We have a long-term challenge ahead of us,” Lynn said.

He urged all Angelenos to join the United Way’s Everyone In campaign at www.everyoneinla.org and to advocate for policy changes and volunteer to help homeless individuals in their community. More information can be found at www.lahsa.org.

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

Activism

Collaboration Key to Anti-Trafficking Efforts

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

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Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.
Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.

Local work t stop human exploitation coordinated through DA’s Office

Courtesy of Marin County

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Bay region and San Francisco are among the top sex trafficking areas in the United States. As the co-chair organization of the Marin County Coalition to End Human Trafficking (MCCEHT), the Marin County District Attorney’s Office is addressing the problem and working with partnering nonprofits and agencies to increase public awareness, prosecute those who commit the crimes, and put a halt to all types of slavery.

On Jan. 11, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to proclaim the month of January as National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Jan. 11 happened to be Human Trafficking Awareness Day as well. Video of the presentation is on the County website (skip ahead to agenda item #4, Consent Calendar A).

The DA’s staff has worked closely with key stakeholders to make sure the red-flag warnings of human trafficking are widely known, even using advertisements at bus stops to urge people to speak up and report potential exploitation.

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

A new nonprofit created by Capra arose from her community work. SpeakSAFE, with SAFE meaning Save Adolescents from Exploitation, assists with local fundraising for educational efforts and has provided online learning opportunities during the pandemic.

“With our coalition, the DA’s Office [has] been extremely supportive and helpful in partnering on our work and connecting us with law enforcement, service providers and community members,” Capra said. “It really is all hands on deck, and their involvement has been pivotal. Our work has always been a priority with them in supporting our youth.”

Frugoli said human trafficking is difficult to detect and rarely reported. Many victims are moved from county to county or state to state, making the trafficker harder to follow and the victim feel isolated and unfamiliar with surroundings.

“Many victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family,” Frugoli said. “Our coalition’s mission is to develop our regional collaborative approach to end all forms of human trafficking. We’ve focused our efforts on education and outreach advocacy. We have turned several cases over to state and federal authorities because the conduct occurred over multiple jurisdictions.”

Cecilia Zamora, Executive Director of the Latino Council and Co-Chair of MCCEHT, emphasized the need to have the coalition’s work be grounded in multicultural best practices, ensuring that the messaging and resources are shared with our thriving Latino communities across the county.

“We do this,” she said, “by successfully utilizing our nonprofit members as partners in the education and outreach to their own constituents.”

The Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act (AB 1227) became California law in 2017 and provides a basis for localized anti-trafficking work. The MCCEHT Steering Committee meets monthly. MCCEHT’s quarterly online meeting on Jan. 19 will feature guest speaker Antonia Lavine of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking and County Supervisor Judy Arnold. The videoconference begins at 11 a.m., Spanish translation will be provided. Participation details are on the MCCEHT website.

Learn more about local anti-trafficking efforts via the PROTECT website or call the DA’s Office at (415) 473-6450.

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Activism

How the Black Press Told the World About Emmet Till

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

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Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.
Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.

By Brandon Patterson

The story of Emmet Till has made its way back into the news in recent weeks on the heels of a new TV miniseries and new developments at the federal level.

Earlier this month, the historical docuseries “Mothers of the Movement” premiered on ABC. And last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to posthumously award Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Emmett Till’s story remains with us to this day, but lesser known is the role of the Black press in bringing his story to light — and in so doing, helping to catalyze the modern Civil Rights Movement.

One of the earliest news outlets to cover the Till story was the Chicago Defender, at the time one of the most influential Black weekly newspapers in the country, with two-thirds of its readership located outside the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The account of reporter Mattie Smith Colin, who covered the arrival of Till’s body at a local train station, captured the anguish of his mother as she received her son. Then, Jet Magazine became the first news outlet to publish the gruesome photos of Till’s body at his funeral, which his mother insisted be open casket.

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

Later, Booker’s coverage of the Till murder trial for Jet helped bring the trial to a Black and national audience. Other significant Black newspapers that covered the Till story included the Amsterdam News in New York City, which, by the 1960s, was the largest weekly community newspaper in the nation, the Pittsburgh Courier, and the Atlanta Constitution.

Coverage of Till’s story was notably different in Black news outlets compared to mainstream white papers. In the South, coverage was often sympathetic to Till’s murderers, notes researcher Michael Oby in a 2007 paper on the Till case.

Black papers, however, framed the story as an obvious and horrid injustice. At the same time, they began encouraging their Black readers to get involved in civil rights organizing, and to donate to the NAACP, which was central to the Till case.

Booker, who worked for Jet for nearly five decades, went on to receive an award from the National Press Club for his lifelong coverage of civil rights in America in the 1980s. At the award ceremony, according to the Chicago Tribune, he said of his work: “I wanted to fight segregation on the front lines. I wanted to dedicate my writing skills to the cause. Segregation was beating down my people. I volunteered for every assignment and suggested more. I stayed on the road, covering civil rights day and night. The names, the places and the events became history.”

Because of his work and other Black journalists and news outlets, we know the story of Emmet Till, and so many other critical stories.

This story was written using reporting from the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and academic research by Michael Oby at Georgia State University.

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Activism

Foster Care and Sex Trafficking

On the program, experts will share their knowledge about coming into foster care, training for foster parents, and the struggles, successes and triumphs of the children who have experience with the foster care system. For information, contact Laurel Botsford, of Wisdom International: Help2Others at:laurel@wisdominternational.org

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The program is supported by the District Attorney of Marin County and the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.
The program is supported by the District Attorney of Marin County and the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

“The Nexus Between Foster Care and Sex Trafficking” a Zoom program, will be presented on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. by the Rotary Club of Terra Linda and Wisdom International: Help2Others.

On the program, experts will share their knowledge about coming into foster care, training for foster parents, and the struggles, successes and triumphs of the children who have experience with the foster care system.

Lori Frugoli, Marin County district attorney, will give the opening remarks.

The featured speakers are Cari Herthel, a tribal leader and survivor; Doris Gentry, a foster mother; Carly Devlin of the Huckleberry Youth HART Program; John Long of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking; Carletta Jackson-Lane, JD, executive director of the Sojourner Truth Foster Family Service Agency. A representative of the FBI will also be there.

This event is free. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-nexus-between-foster-care-and-sex-trafficking-tickets-248412557647Please join at 2:50 p.m. for a prompt start at 3 p.m.

For information, contact Laurel Botsford, of Wisdom International: Help2Others at:laurel@wisdominternational.org

The program is supported by the District Attorney of Marin County and the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

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