Los Angeles outpaces the rest of the nation when it comes to chronic homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than one-third of the chronically homeless individuals and families in the United States live in California. The majority of those people are in Los Angeles, with a significant percentage also found in the Southern California counties of:
- Orange County
- Riverside County
- San Bernardino County
- Santa Barbara County
A stark reality of homelessness in Los Angeles, and elsewhere in Southern California, is that unsheltered men, women, and children are no longer found just in the lower-income of more economically and socially hard-pressed neighborhoods in the cities. Rather, the faces of homeless people are now seen almost everywhere, including in more affluent suburban neighborhoods.
This reality leads more than a few people to ask the question: “What can I do about the homeless people on my street?” In fact, depending on the individual raising this question, it actually can have one of two different meanings:
- What can I do to get homeless people off my street and out of my neighborhood?
- What can I do to help the homeless people on my street and in my neighborhood?
Each of these often asked questions will be addressed in turn.
What Can I Do to Get Homeless People off My Street and out of My Neighborhood?
One more frequently occurring situation in Los Angeles County is the increasing numbers of homeless encampments that are cropping up almost everywhere in the county. While historically, homeless encampments typically had been found in more hardscrabble areas of the city and county, there are now very few neighborhoods that haven’t faced the presence of homeless encampments in more recent times.
A reality associated with homeless encampments is that they can present dangerous conditions and situations. These can include everything from criminal conduct to disease to hazardous materials being deposited in and around these encampments.
If you face an actual homeless encampment in your neighborhood, you may be able to obtain at least some relief from law enforcement. Depending on the location of a homeless encampment in your neighborhood, law enforcement may be able to remove the “residents” of the encampment utilizing trespassing, nuisance, or some other state laws or local ordinances.
If you have observed criminal activity associated with homeless individuals in your neighborhood, as well as at or around am encampment, law enforcement officials may also be able to take action. If you report criminal activity, you will need to be willing to testify if necessary in support of a criminal prosecution, should charges based on your report come to pass.
One thing you should avoid doing when it comes to a sincere desire to assist homeless people on your street or in your neighborhood is to just hand them cash. If you want homeless people to benefit from your money, make a financial contribution to an organization that serves the needs of people who lack homes. There is an array of reputable organizations that strive to assist homeless individuals in Southern California through different types of programming.
Organizations That Assist Homeless People in Southern California
Union Rescue Mission
Los Angeles County
Orange County Rescue Mission
Coachella Valley Rescue Mission
Time For Change Foundation
San Bernardino County
Serving Ventura, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara
You can also help homeless people on your street and in your neighborhood, and others like them, by volunteering to assist different organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of this segment of the community.
While handing money to homeless people, in your neighborhood or elsewhere, is not recommended, there are some steps that you can take as a means of reaching out directly to these individuals. For example, you can work in local meal centers, sometimes called lunchrooms or soup kitchens. You an also lend a hand working in a local food bank.
Other hands-on steps you can take to assist homeless people in your neighborhood include:
- Packing and providing hygiene kits for homeless men, women, and children that are distributed via human services agencies
- Provide gently used clothing to homeless individuals to be distributed through a clothing bank
- Provide blankets and similar items to be provided by human services agencies to people in need