From California to Washington, the West Coast is a Left Coast — a land of sexual hedonism, lax drug laws, and socialism. No surprise then that this "Left Coast" is now the epicenter of a surging homeless population.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its "annual Point in Time count Wednesday, a report that showed nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country during local tallies conducted in January. That figure is up nearly 1 percent from 2016."
They continued: "Of that total, 193,000 people had no access to nightly shelter and instead were staying in vehicles, tents, the streets and other places considered uninhabitable. The unsheltered figure is up by more than 9 percent compared to two years ago."
Since 2015, the homeless population in West Coast cities has seen such an explosion that 10 city and county governments have declared states of emergency. Exactly what do city officials blame for this problem? Not drugs, not family breakdowns, not inadequate housing for the mentally ill, but rather a "booming economy. "
"Rents have soared beyond affordability for many lower-wage workers who until just a just few years ago could typically find a place to stay," reports AP. "Now, even a temporary setback can be enough to leave them out on the streets."
Thomas Butler Jr., a homeless man living in a tent near a Los Angeles freeway ramp, concurs with that conclusion: "A lot of people in America don’t realize they might be two checks, three checks, four checks away from being homeless."
People in the states of California, Oregon and Washington have taken notice of the sudden outbreak of homeless encampments popping up under freeways and rivers. The city governments have not cracked down on street camping, and as a result, a spread of hepatitis A — a liver damaging virus spread by feces — has afflicted Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and San Diego. The Associated Press has more:
The outbreak prompted California officials to declare a state of emergency in October.
The HUD report underscores the severity of the problem along the West Coast.
While the overall homeless population in California, Oregon and Washington grew by 14 percent over the past two years, the part of that population considered unsheltered climbed 23 percent to 108,000. That is in part due a shortage of affordable housing.
In booming Seattle, for example, the HUD report shows the unsheltered population grew by 44 percent over two years to nearly 5,500.
The homeless service area that includes most of Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis, saw its total homeless count top 55,000 people, up by more than 13,000 from 2016. Four out of every five homeless individuals there are considered unsheltered, leaving tens of thousands of people with no place to sleep other than the streets or parks.
The outbreak affects not only the safety, health and overall aesthetic of the city, it also affects business. Some bars, such as The Monty bar near downtown Los Angeles, have to wait until after 8 p.m to open their doors "because a nearby shelter requires people staying there to be in the building by 7."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has called for more federal funds to combat the homeless problem.
“Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis was not created in a vacuum, and it cannot be solved by L.A. alone,” Garcetti said in a statement.