Following over four years of Skid Row's Safer Cities Initiative, a controversial policing effort championed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) has released a human rights assessment (pdf) of the city's program revealing some extremely troubling results.
Purported to increase public safety in downtown LA and bring additional homeless services to the community, the Safer Cities appears in some cases to actually be increasing homelessness and violating the human rights of many in the homeless and very low-income communities of Los Angeles, according to the report.
LA CAN surveyed over 200 poor and homeless individuals living in downtown Los Angeles, and found that more than half (53.6%) of the respondents had been arrested in the previous year alone. And here's the real stinger: as a result of those arrests, 51.5% lost their housing, 42.4% lost access to social services, and 16.4% lost employment.
Reducing crime, preventing deaths and making the area safer are no doubt important and laudable goals, but if such a high percentage of residents are reporting that the Safer City approach is pushing them further towards instability and homelessness, it's time to reevaluate the program's tactics.
Across the country we've continually seen the devastating and ineffective results of criminalizing homelessness. The Safer Cities Initiative has made tremendous strides towards making the Skid Row area safer for residents, but the program should also ensure that it is protecting the rights of those living in the community and is working to connect them with the services they need.
Photo credit: Tim Wang