From Awareness to Action: A Journey of Understanding the LA Homelessness Crisis

By Cristian Bojin

 

Portrait of lonely teenage girl on moody winter day

Each night I get to be home with my beautiful wife and 5-year-old daughter. Often, as my wife and I are tucking our daughter into her cozy bed, we tell her how much we love her. This is normal for us, and we are grateful. Our life is not perfect, but each night we have a warm place to lay our heads down after a fruitful work day. Each night we have dinner together as a family, which is our favorite time because we get to tune out everything else that has captured our attention throughout the day and focus on each other.

Until recently, my wife and I didn’t think often about the many homeless individuals living on the streets of Los Angeles. Aside from handing out a dollar or two when we see someone homeless at an intersection, we have not done anything to help them.

I am a communications major at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and for the last few months have been interning with Hillsides’ communications department. Through Hillsides’ Youth Moving On (YMO) program for youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood, Hillsides serves youth ages 16 – 25 in the community, many who are homeless.  My first assignment for my internship was to research the state of homelessness in Los Angeles County, with a focus on transition-aged youth ages 16-25 (TAY).

Through my research, I have learned that the homeless population in Los Angeles County has grown significantly. According to the most recent count conducted by the city of Los Angeles, the 2017 LA Homelessness Census, during the last 10 days of January, 2017, there were 57,794 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. This number represents a 23% increase from 2016, when the number was 46,874.

Often youth are hit the hardest by homelessness.  According to the same 2017 census, 5,983 youth experienced homelessness on a given night in Los Angeles County, which represents a 61% increase from 2016.  Based on national statistics, it’s likely that a large percentage of these youth were transitioning from foster care.  According to a National Youth in Transition Database survey, 19 percent of 19-year-olds report having been homeless at some point within the past two years, and most of them were formerly in foster care.

In Pasadena, where our YMO program is located, conversely, the homelessness rate has decreased significantly since 2009. There were 1,004 homeless people on the streets of Pasadena in 2009, according to the annual count conducted by the city.  Now that number is closer to 570, which marks a 56% drop in homelessness.   The city has taken many measures to improve the situation, such as partnering with non-profit developers and Union Station Homeless Services to build and operate permanent supportive housing developments for formerly homeless individuals and families. One such development, Marv’s Place, houses over 60 people, including more than 30 children.

Despite the increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County, however, there have been positive developments in the greater Los Angeles area as well. County voters approved Measure H last March, which provides a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fight homelessness. In addition, the measure is set to distribute $350 million to Los Angeles County fight homelessness.  Measure HHH, which was overwhelmingly passed by Los Angeles voters in November 2016, allows the city to build 10,000 new units for homeless people over the next 10 years.

Learning all of these statistics, as well as realizing the challenge the city and county face trying to resolve the problem, has made me realize that we all need to be more involved. I don’t have any big solutions to solve homelessness, but for now, one easy thing I can do is refer any homeless youth I encounter to Hillsides’ teen drop-in center, the Peer Resource Center, where they can get a meal, a shower, and referrals to housing. I also plan on volunteering with my family at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. It’s a start to ensure that just like my family, others throughout Los Angeles are able to go to bed at night in a warm, cozy place with a roof over their heads.

 

Cristian Bojin was born in the Eastern European country of Romania.  As a child, he learned English from watching movies and listening to music. He moved to Los Angeles in 2008 at age 25. The next year he began working at Wells Fargo Bank as a part-time teller. Today he is a customer service manager 2, leading a team of 10 at a Wells Fargo branch in Whittier.  Cristian is also finishing up a communications degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he will graduate this May.  In the fall, he will start a master’s degree in professional communications at California State University, Fullerton.  He hopes to transfer to the Wells Fargo Corporate Communications department this year.   

 

 

 

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