By Shanti Hubbard-Bennett, age 12
Six years ago, one of my mom’s closest friends lost his home and had nowhere to go. I felt sad for him and worried about my own family. In December, on her first day as mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass declared a state of emergency on houselessness. In the state, 44 out of 10,000 people are unhoused.
There are around 172,000 unhoused people in California, with more than half of them in Los Angeles. As of Sept. 8, 2022, the official count of unhoused people in Los Angeles grew to 69,144 people, a 4.1% increase from 2020. California has the highest number of unhoused people in the country, with 50% of all unsheltered people in the United States living in the state. The number of people unhoused in Los Angeles is shocking to me.
In early January, devastation from severe rainstorms largely impacted the unhoused population in California. This revealed failures of the city to protect those most vulnerable, despite having invested $11 million in “homeless services” over 2022. Knowing that I was safe in my home during these terrible storms while people are stranded outside with nothing but a tent for protection scared me.
The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $3,835, an increase of 4% since 2021, whereas, on average, wages in California have only risen by 1%. The number of unhoused people keeps rising because many can’t afford these steep rent hikes, and the availability of affordable housing keeps going down.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, affordable housing should cost no more than one-third of your paycheck. However, in California, around 7.1 million are low-income, meaning that more than half of their paycheck has to be spent on rent. A disproportionate number of these people experiencing housing instability are people of color.
My mom’s friend has now made his office his home, but this can’t be the final solution. I would like to see the rent in L.A. go down so more people can afford to be safe. It feels awful that there are a lot of people out there who can’t find a stable place to live. It makes me realize that this could someday be me, my family or my friends.