Black people make up only 9 percent of the entire Los Angeles population, according to a 2010 census report, yet account for one-third of the city's homeless population, a statistic that is demographically consistent across the country.
A new report from the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority aims to eliminate racial disparity in the Los Angeles homeless population by instituting new training programs, collecting and analyzing data and research and enacting new policy and advocacy campaigns.
The report identified institutional racism as the leading cause of black homelessness and offered recommendations to help advance equity among the homeless people of Los Angeles. City leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, discussed the report and solutions at the California African American Museum on Monday.
"This is a groundbreaking report in the sense that it is the first of the sort in the nation," said Mark Ridley-Thomas, a LA County Supervisor. "We expect Los Angeles to set an example for other jurisdictions and it's appropriate that we are the first in the nation because the problem of homelessness, the crisis of homelessness, is more profound here than it is anywhere else."
Mayor Garcetti echoed this sentiment, and made a promise to the homeless population of Los Angeles.
"We are a city that we say everybody belongs in. And we see you in your specificity, we see you in your beauty. We see you culturally, geographically, we see you," Garcetti said. "We will be relentless in those efforts to make sure we don't [just] address and reduce homelessness, [but] that we end it once and for all."
While there are many factors that contribute to homelessness, chief among them is institutionalized racism, the LAHSA task force reported.
"The primary cause is people with mental health issues, [people who] deal with substance abuse issues, affordability issues, those are the primary causes [of homelessness]. But as it relates to African Americans there is simply no denying the fact that race does matter," Ridley-Thomas said. "The history of racism and the underinvestment in correcting this problem has caused it to be as profound as it is,"
In the report, the committee attributed a number of issues to the systematic oppression of black people, and said it plans to address some of the concerns such as housing and employment discrimination.
]The task force said there is an urgent need for policies and systems to change in order to begin to remediate these problems. It proposed 67 recommendations in the report, including working to expand fair hiring practices, funding programs that support formerly incarcerated individuals and that provide affordable housing.
While this report is just a start, Ridley-Thomas said he is optimistic because it is a step in the right direction.
"[There is a] disproportionate impact on African Americans, [who represent] one in ten in the county of Los Angeles, and yet we represent one in three of the homeless population," he said. "We cannot deny that and we have to face it and this report helps us do so."
Sydney Nebens also contributed to this article.