As the US pledges billions to support Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, the nation grapples with a worsening homelessness problem. Los Angeles County witnesses a significant increase in the homeless population, prompting concerns about the allocation of resources.
Los Angeles County’s Soaring Homelessness Rates
Los Angeles County, the second-largest city in the US, has witnessed a distressing increase in homelessness. Recent data from a federally-mandated tally conducted in January reveals that over 75,518 individuals, equivalent to approximately one in 130 residents, endure life on the streets every night. This figure represents a notable 9.2% surge in homelessness compared to the previous year, with the numbers climbing from around 69,145 in 2022.
The Gravity of the Situation in Los Angeles
Within Los Angeles itself, approximately 46,260 homeless residents struggle to find shelter, constituting over 1% of the city’s total population. Moreover, substance abuse afflicts around one-third of the homeless population in Los Angeles County, exacerbating their challenges. The severity of the crisis prompted Los Angeles to declare a state of emergency in late 2022, allocating $1.3 billion from the city’s budget to address the issue.
Root Causes and Long-Term Trends
The roots of large-scale homelessness in America trace back to the 1980s when mental institutions were closed, and federal social spending programs faced significant cuts during the Reagan administration. Contributing to the problem is ordinary poverty, with an estimated 20% of homeless individuals holding either full or part-time jobs but remaining unable to afford housing. Disturbingly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated the total homeless population in the US at approximately 582,500 people in 2022, while some agencies and charities suggest even higher figures, including as many as 2.3 million homeless children aged 0-18.
Political Disconnect and Funding Disparities
As the US channels billions of dollars to support Ukraine, a growing number of ordinary Americans and some politicians highlight the glaring disparity between foreign aid and domestic social program funding. Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr drew attention to this issue on a NewsNation town hall on June 28, 2023, emphasizing that the budget allocated for Ukraine surpasses the budgets of crucial organizations like the CDC and EPA.
“We’re sending $113 billion to Ukraine. The entire budget of the CDC is $12 billion. The budget of EPA is $12 billion. 57 percent of Americans could not put their hands on $1,000 if they have an emergency in their family. 25 percent of Americans are hungry.”
Kennedy pointed out the pressing needs within the US, such as hunger and financial emergencies faced by a significant portion of the population.
While the United States extends substantial financial support to Ukraine, the escalating homelessness crisis, particularly in Los Angeles County, demands urgent attention. As the numbers of individuals living on the streets continue to rise, it becomes crucial to address the funding disparities and prioritize resources to tackle homelessness within the nation.
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