In the following videos, there are four places scattered over 400 miles apart. They all share the same state government — a state that’s more than $400 billion in debt and has the largest homeless population in the United States.
According to The New York Times, one in four homeless people in America — 114,000 in total — live in California. Los Angeles County alone has 55,000 homeless, a number that rose by 13,000 from 2016 to 2017.
L.A.’s chronically homeless population has grown 55%, to 12,536, since 2013, accounting for almost 15% of all people in that category, HUD reported. More than one-third of the nation’s chronically homeless live in California, the agency added.
L.A.’s spike outpaced New York City’s one-year increase, the second largest, 3 to 1, the report said. The number of chronically homeless people nationwide remained basically flat, rising 1%, the report said.
114,000 people without basic services is a catastrophe-in-waiting.
Hepatitis A is a viral disease that primarily attacks the liver. For elderly and immune-compromised people—it can be fatal. This past summer, people started getting sick in San Diego. Like HIV, hep A gets transmitted through sex and sharing needles. In San Diego, the infected were primarily homeless (who don’t have ready access to bathroom facilities), illicit drug users, and men who have sex with men. The toll stands at 546 cases and 20 deaths, with a confirmed spread of another several dozen in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz.
Homeless people present a particular challenge for health—but for reasons as much political as medical. When the urban infrastructure shows signs of weakness, as it has with these hep A outbreaks, it exposed a breakdown in economic and social policy. How do we begin to deal with our social and political homelessness crisis?
Is this a public health problem we are all going to have to get used to?