The humanitarian and moral crisis of homelessness is unsurpassed in Los Angeles. Perhaps the solution is just a phone call away.In December, 1969 I started working on the streets of Los Angeles as an undercover federal agent for the then Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (this agency became the Drug Enforcement Administration). The streets of LA have really changed for the worse since then.
As the president of a major private investigative agency in California, we often are contacted by friends and relatives of those people who have gone missing, a lot of the time in Los Angeles. Many come here to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Others are drawn by the great weather and the pursuit of the almighty dollar. It is not uncommon for those new arrivals some to turn to alcohol and/or drugs and end up homeless.
Many local private investigators know exactly where these people migrate so they can panhandle, get drugs and sleep on the streets without harassment from the law enforcement community. All the major cities throughout the United States have designated areas where PI’s can find these runaways or missing persons.
Unfortunately in Los Angeles, these small areas have turned into dozens of city blocks complete with over 60,000 homeless people. The humanitarian and moral crisis is unsurpassed in Los Angeles.
Last week, I worked with three of my investigators to find a missing 28-year-old female from Connecticut. Between the four of us, we have over 175 years of investigative experience, and we’ve seen just about everything. Even we felt vulnerable at the center of the homeless population. The living conditions are nothing like you see on television or hear about in the press. Needles are discarded on every sidewalk and curb. Many “residents” are defiant and challenge your right to be looking for anyone. As you traverse this tragic waste of human potential, it is hard not to walk on feces or urine.
What a difference a week makes.
Yesterday I had lunch with Father Joe Carroll. Joe and I started studying to become priests of the Los Angeles Archdioceses in September, 1964. After four years, it was clear I did not have a vocation to the priesthood. Joe was ordained in 1974.Father Joe’s Villages. Yesterday my wife and I toured the five square blocks in downtown San Diego with Father Joe and his associate, Jim Kennedy.
The life changing events that occur on a daily basis throughout the Village are truly impressive once you see them in person. There are 3,000 meals served every day. There are doctors, dentists and nurses available. People can just stop in and get a shower and haircut. Drug, alcohol and mental health issues can be addressed each day by both volunteers and paid staff. Housing is provided for newborns and their mothers so they can live in a safe environment.
There are no needles, feces or urine in the village. People don’t even think about bringing in drugs and ruining “our” place. The homeless pretty much supervise themselves. Everyone is respected and all lines of humanity waiting for services are done calmly and without incident.
Father Joe is like a rock-star as he traverses the many buildings in his motorized wheel-chair. Many of the homeless just want to shake his hand or touch his shoulder. There were numerous shout outs of “Thank you Father Joe for saving my life” and “God Bless you Father Joe”.
Father Joe has the experience and expertise of an entire adult life enacting meaningful, real changes in San Diego.One could argue that most of the homeless arrived in their situation because of poor decisions they made in their lives. That is certainly a factor. But really homelessness is a complex issue caused by a number of factors. Politicians often remind us of some of them: housing shortages, stagnate wages, cuts in Federal and State programs, sexual and domestic abuse, no legitimate resources for veterans and challenges with those leaving our prison systems.
No matter one’s philosophical or political stance on these issues, we can all acknowledge there are a number of problems within the homeless communities in Los Angeles.
Mr. Garcetti, I ask that you or one of your staff members call Father Joe and get his thoughts and guidance. Political rhetoric and the resources offered to date have done little to help LA’s homeless problems. Father Joe has the experience and expertise of an entire adult life enacting meaningful, real changes in San Diego.
Perhaps the beginning of a big change here in Los Angeles is a phone call away.