Local: Jobs and work support could curtail LA’s stubborn homeless crisis

From today’s LA Times:

Providing jobs and other aid to Los Angeles County residents soon after they land in the streets could help prevent 2,600 to 5,200 people a year from falling into persistent homelessness, according to a new study from a liberal think tank.

The “Escape Routes” study from the nonprofit Economic Roundtable zeroes in on a key dilemma in Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis: Even as officials have moved 33,000 homeless people into permanent housing since 2013 and launched a $1.2-billion construction program, high rents, job loss and medical crises continue to push people out of their homes.

Without early intervention, thousands of these people will become mired in chronic homelessness, deepening the region’s stubborn problem, the study found.

“Housing alone is not enough to end homelessness. The steady flow of new people into chronic homelessness keeps moving the goalposts back,” Dan Flaming, president of Economic Roundtable, said in a statement.

The researchers combined 26 data sources — including county healthcare and social services records, the U.S. Census and homeless counts and demographic surveys — to sketch what experts called a novel portrait of people at risk of falling into chronic homelessness, as well as recommendations of how to help them.

For several years running, Los Angeles has topped the nation in chronically homeless people, with 16,576 in the 2017 count, the most recent available.

Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor and a leading researcher of homeless demographics, said one of the most important findings was that 150,000 people in L.A. County are homeless in a year, although many resolve their crises on their own.

Because more than three-quarters of L.A.’s homeless people live outdoors in camps or vehicles, the official homeless count — a three-day snapshot of people living in the streets and shelters — has always been suspect, Culhane said.

The study says the number of people languishing in homelessness can be reduced, but not without a big investment. Many homeless people are eager to work, particularly those with children, but they need childcare, transportation, temporary housing, training and in some cases government-funded jobs to bring them into the work force, study said.

Read the complete article here.

LA Times journalists vote to unionize

From today’s LA Times:

Journalists at the Los Angeles Times have overwhelmingly elected to form a union, a first for the 136-year-old news organization that for much of its history was known for its opposition to organized labor.

The union drive was launched publicly in October and culminated in an election earlier this month. Results, tallied Friday by the National Labor Relations Board, show workers voted 248 to 44 to be represented by the Washington, D.C.-based NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America.

“We respect the outcome of the election and look forward to productive conversations with union leadership as we move forward,” said Marisa Kollias, spokeswoman for Tronc Inc., The Times’ parent. “We remain committed to ensuring that the Los Angeles Times is a leading source for news and information and to producing the award-winning journalism our readers rely on.”

Guild organizer Kristina Bui, a copy editor at The Times, said: “This was a long time coming, and we’re all thrilled that this has finally happened. The newsroom has put up with so much disruption and mismanagement, and this vote just underscores how much of a say we need to have in the decision-making process. The newsroom is demanding a seat at the bargaining table.”

Read the complete article here.

Op-Ed: Should we set up New Deal-style work camps for the needy?

From today’s LA Times:

They are sending out emergency calls for shoes, underwear, sleeping garments, household equipment, mattresses, springs and bedding,” a Los Angeles Times story reported from Southern California. Do-gooders were doing what they could to help the destitute. “They have no sanitation,” a volunteer said. “No running water. Before the storms this week, we had set into motion a campaign in their behalf.”

The above reads like an article about the homeless from this month’s California section. But the dispatch actually dates from 1938, and the needy were the most mythologized of Golden State refugees: the Okies. Some 16,000 had settled in Montebello and Bell Gardens, the Times wrote, and the “distress … [was] terribly acute.”

Dust Bowl migrants have been on my mind recently, mostly because I just finished “California and the Dust Bowl Migration” by Walter J. Stein, a 1973 book that’s one of the earliest academic surveys about how that momentous exodus changed the state. It’s a great, if dry, read, and the Canadian professor puts more blame on the New Deal for pushing Oklahomans from their farms than he should.

But the book offered me perspective. The most recent estimate of California’s homeless population, by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual Point in Time Census, is 114,000. That number pales in comparison with the estimated 350,000 Okies who flooded California, mostly during the second half of the Great Depression. And, despite initial hiccups, we came out of it just fine.

Stein’s tome also provides a way forward: workers’ camps. Yes, that sounds politically incorrect, somehow, but stay with me.

The Farm Security Administration (FSA) built about 15 such camps to house Okies who were getting booted out of the shantytowns known as Hoovervilles. The government-sponsored camps were refuges from hate, with running water and clean living quarters and an ordered way to find work. Most even printed monthly newsletters. They sprang up in the Imperial Valley and Sonoma, the Central Valley and near Indio. Only one remains in operation: the Sunset Labor Camp just outside Bakersfield, which served as the inspiration for the Rooseveltian eden that the Joads find in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Now’s the time to bring them back, especially since Orange County officials plan to evict the hundreds of homeless along the biking trails of the Santa Ana River, within eyesight of the 57 and 5 freeways. Similar schemes are in the works across the state. Advocates are already warning that the homeless will have nowhere to go: There’s not nearly enough shelter space, and many are in no condition to reenter society, which means they will set up their tents in residential neighborhoods, whose inhabitants will just call the cops and offer no help.

Read the complete article here.

For workers, voters, and consumers: SB384 to extend last call to 4am in CA

From today’s Los Angeles Times Editorial Board:

Last call in California is 2 a.m. That’s when bars, restaurants, nightclubs and any other businesses licensed for on-site liquor sales are legally bound to stop serving alcohol, and that’s when most of those establishments close for the night.

Why 2 a.m.? That’s just the way it’s been in California for the last 80 years, ever since the 21st Amendment ended the national prohibition on alcohol and states were left to set their own laws governing its sale and distribution.

California picked 2 a.m. as the appropriate time to stop pouring libations. So did Colorado, Iowa, Texas and about two dozen other states. Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia picked 3 a.m., while Alaska, Illinois and New York settled on 4 a.m. Several states, including Nevada and New Jersey, have no state limits at all on when alcohol can be sold. Many states also give cities and counties the flexibility to set their own local rules on alcohol sales. That’s why New Orleans bars can stay open 24 hours a day, while bars in nearby Baton Rouge have to close at 2 a.m.

The point is that there’s no firm science behind last-call laws, no data that prove that 2 a.m. is better than 4 a.m or 6 a.m. or any other time. The laws are more a reflection of a state’s history, its cultural practices and its politics. California is still hewing to a 1935 law dictating that alcohol sales stop from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., and that blanket prohibition no longer makes sense for cities with thriving music and nightlife scenes that compete for investment and tourism with the likes of New York City, Las Vegas and other late-night cities.

It’s time to give local governments more control over when, where and how alcohol is served. A city like Los Angeles, for instance, shouldn’t have to shut down its bars early each night in deference to a fusty, 80-year-old law. Letting responsible establishments in appropriate neighborhoods stay open later would help create a fun, bustling, vibrant, big-city atmosphere attractive to younger people and tourists — while also generating tax revenue, creating jobs and increasing the earnings of small businesses.

Senate Bill 384 would have California follow the lead of other states that have allowed cities and counties more authority to set rules on closing times. The bill would establish a process by which the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would allow certain bars, restaurants and nightclubs to sell alcohol between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. — if, and only if, the local government wants to allow extended hours.

There would be lots of hoops to jump through. The City Council or local governing body would have to submit a plan to the department that identifies when and where extended hours would be allowed, how law enforcement authorities would manage the effects and what transportation services would be available. The local authorities could decide to limit extended hours to certain commercial districts only, say, or to allow them only on weekends. The department would need to sign off on the plan. Then individual businesses would need to apply for permission from the ABC, which would require notifying law enforcement and residents within 500 feet of the establishment.

The hoops are designed to address concerns from law enforcement and community activists, who have successfully killed previous efforts to relax the 2 a.m. cutoff amid fears that later hours will lead to more drunk driving and raucous partying. Those are legitimate concerns, although advocates for the bill note that of the 10 states with the highest DUI-related fatalities, only three allow alcohol service after 2 a.m.

The reality is 2 a.m. is unnecessarily early for communities with busy restaurants, music venues and clubs, such as downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and San Francisco. Why should bars close at 2 a.m., especially if law enforcement can handle the additional patrols and taxis and ridesharing apps, like Lyft and Uber, give revelers more options to get home without a car? State lawmakers should support SB 384 and let cities and counties set a last call that works for locals.

LA city workers rally for living wage

From yesterday’s LA Times Local:

Hundreds of workers rallied outside the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, demanding an increase to the “living wage” that county contractors are required to pay employees.

“We should not forget one of the goals of the civil rights movement was the end of poverty,” said Michael Green, a regional director of SEIU 721, which represents 55,000 county workers.

The living wage ordinance was enacted by the Supervisors in 1999 as a response to private firms that the county contracted with paying workers low wages that left them reliant on county-funded healthcare and social services. The living wage was increased in 2006 and currently stands at $9.64 per hour if the employer is providing health benefits and $11.84 per hour if the employer is not providing health benefits.

Labor leaders have argued that the wage has failed to keep pace with inflation, and Green noted that poverty in the area has increased 17% in the last five years.

“The Board of Supervisors needs to set an example,” he said. “Our message is simple — it is time to take another look at Los Angeles County’s living wage.”

Noise from the rally could be heard inside the board’s chambers, where members were holding their weekly meeting. The protestors never entered the chamber and ended their hourlong rally at 1 p.m.

Forty minutes later, board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who benefited from millions of dollars in labor spending on his bid to be elected to the board in 2008, directed county staff to provide an update on the living wage ordinance and cost-of-living increases.

“It seems  to me that we wish to be current in terms of what the living wage is for the workforce in the County of Los Angeles,” he said.

While Occupy LA is the last to fall, focus on inequality will remain

The national dialogue started by Occupy Wall Street will continue, but the last of the encampments that have sprung up in big and small cities across America will be cleared out tonight.

Occupy LA the last to be evicted.

Last Friday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck held a press conference announcing the city of Los Angeles was issuing an eviction order for the lawn of City Hall where hundreds of protesters associated with Occupy Los Angeles have been camped since October. On Monday at midnight police began enforcing that eviction order, arresting dozens of protesters in a largely peaceful manner. This is in stark contrast to other cities and university campuses where police have used unnecessary and outrageous force to evict protesters from public spaces.

This signals the end of the first stage of this movement, to occupy these spaces in order to draw the nation’s attention to its unchecked economic and political corruption. Although media commentators, some members of the general public, and FOX News have nurtured doubts about the “focus” or the “message” of this movement, there can be no doubt that this Occupy Movement has restored the problem of economic inequality in the conscience of the nation.

The question now is what the second stage of this movement will look like. As protesters and sympathizers search for the means to continue raising consciousness about the problem of inequality, efforts must be made to create a national organization with state and local outreach. This should be done to counter the perception that the Occupy Movement is merely a bunch of malcontents, anarchists, and homeless persons without a message.

In reality, it is a movement made up of diverse Americans all of whom have been adversely impacted by an economic and political system that no longer serves the interests of the supermajority of its stakeholders. These Americans include young and old alike, whether they are homeless, poor, unemployed, or employed is irrelevant. The Occupy Movement represents the most authentic cross-section of America to date, and therefore speaks honestly to the very real problems that plague our friends, families, and fellow citizens.

We live in the wealthiest country in the world. Roughly speaking, that wealth is controlled by 1 percent of its citizens. Meanwhile, the lives and prospects of the remaining 99 percent continue to suffer and diminish in the face of permanent unemployment, massive credit card and student loan debt, and a democracy that has been hijacked by money and special interests. Despite attempts by corporate hacks and establishment apologists to discredit the Occupy Movement for lack of “focus” or “message” because it lacks “sexy” marketing, the nation owes these brave souls who have suffered derision, endured bad weather and faced the batons and pepper spray of police officers, for bringing the real problems of this country to the table.