Advocates of Proposition HHH gathered at a press conference Wednesday morning at the Downtown Women's Center in Los Angeles to address the rising number of women living on Skid Row.
"Women's homelessness is at an all-time high in Los Angeles," said Anne Miskey, chief executive officer of the Downtown Women's Center. "Since 2013, we have seen an increase of 55 percent in the number of women living on our streets or in shelters. It is no long simply an issue — it is a crisis — and a crisis we must address immediately."
The Downtown Women's Action Coalition released its latest needs assessment report in conjunction with the press conference. The report, based on a survey the coalition conducted throughout Skid Row in March, provided data about the demographics, health and economic conditions, experiences of violence and the impact of homelessness on women.
The coalition was founded in April 2001 in response to the closure of emergency shelters programs for women in downtown Los Angeles.
"We use this survey as an organizing effort to ensure that our elected officials are doing what they are supposed to do, which is responding to the needs of our actual community," said Ariana Alcaraz, co-chair for Downtown Women's Action Coalition and community organizer for the Los Angeles Community Action Network. "As the city continues to criminalize homelessness, we have to make sure that we are getting these people the services and needs addressed in this survey."
Proposition HHH is on the Nov. 8 ballot for Los Angeles' city special municipal election. Formally known as the Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities Bond, the measure would allow the city of Los Angeles to borrow up to $1.2 billion over 10 years to finance the construction of affordable housing projects for the homeless.
"Housing insecurity affects over 30 percent of the Los Angeles population, even those who have a college education," said Dr. Charles Kaplan, research professor and associate dean at the USC School of Social Work. "With the rent prices in LA compounded with the high cost of living, people are one paycheck from being homeless."
Opponents of the proposition are concerned about the cost and question whether it would address the root problem of homelessness.
The report from the Downtown Women's Action Coalition showed that homelessness disproportionately affected women of color.
"Racism is still alive and we really need to work to target that so we can get this population off the street," said Rachel Kassenbrock, public relations representative and policy coordinator for the Downtown Women's Center. "African American women only make up 9 percent of the overall LA County population. However, institutionalized racism has left them extremely vulnerable to economic distress."
Of the 371 women surveyed, over 60 percent identified as African American.
Louise Mbella, former co-chair and secretary for the Downtown Women's Action Coalition, said people should put aside their prejudices and help their community.
"If you see a person is in pain, homeless, or trying to overcome domestic violence or crime violence, then help that person regardless of race, color or gender," she said. "The fact that they are in that situation is a good reason enough to help them."
The report also highlighted that homeless women faced high rates of violence. Over 90 percent of the women surveyed had experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. A third of those responders said they had experienced some form of violence within the last year.
"If passed, Prop. HHH would get up to 10,000 individuals experiencing homelessness off the streets and into permanent housing," said Miskey of the Downtown Women's Center. "We have a real opportunity to create real change for these women."
Reach Staff Reporter Terrance Davis here.