Homelessness in California has already reached a state of crisis, but with the winter approaching and the homeless population growing, the problem continues to worsen. A lack of affordable housing coupled with the national opioid crisis has resulted in a growing homeless population that lives on the streets of California.
California homeless populations live in squalor in makeshift homes made of tarps, tents, and discarded scrap wood. Sanitation for that many people living outside is virtually non-existent and feces and urine are left in the open next to filthy bedding.
Filth in the streets, particularly “Skid Row”, has lead to the comeback of “Medieval Diseases” once thought to be eradicated.
The housing situation in California shows no signs of improving.
As Californians continue to witness the desolation camped right outside their front doors, their patience grows thin and their tolerance dissipates.
The New York Times reports:
California may pride itself on its commitment to tolerance and liberal values, but across the state, record levels of homelessness have spurred a backlash against those who live on the streets. (source)
The homeless arrive on the streets of California for various reasons, but lack of housing is the resounding cry. Affordable housing is scarce and lower-income citizens are forced out as rents continue to rise. But another huge factor has resulted in new homeless that have overrun the already overwhelmed resources: wildfire evacuees. As a result, more recent homeless are clashing with the older homeless population. Many of the State’s “new” homeless have nowhere to go after their houses went up in flames. The two camps may have come to homelessness in different ways, but their needs are the same. And these two camps of homeless are fighting for dwindling resources.
The wildfires are contributing to the housing problem.
Wildfire destruction is making the lack of affordable housing into a bigger and more urgent problem. Wildfires are wreaking havoc on the already limited housing, forcing families displaced by fires onto long waiting lists for even temporary shelter. Even if families had the resources to move into permanent housing, there’s little left available. The fires are torching what little housing there is left and making already insanely priced housing even harder to come by. Compounding the problem is the lack of affordable home owner’s insurance. Even longtime homeowners are being forced out due to insurance companies dropping property coverage in “high risk” areas and tripling rates. This is displacing even more Californians.
Wildfires continue to rage and take housing with them. The already out-of-control California fire situation is only getting worse. It’s so bad that California is issuing a “severe red flag” warning for the risk of wildfire with some areas getting hurricane-force winds. These winds only increase the chances of fires starting and spreading faster.
And the homeless, an already fragile population with few resources, are growing exponentially in conjunction with the devastation of housing in wildfire areas. Displaced from their homes and housing already at a crisis point, the evacuees from wildfires have nowhere to go and few places to turn to for help. They have resorted to living in tents in open fields or Walmart parking lots as they wait on interminably long lists for available and affordable housing. Many, including a disproportionate number of elderly citizens, are simply turned away and left on their own.
The Governor of California has offered a solution: rent control. This has been met with backlash from their citizens who have opposed this. Even where rent control has already been instituted, the homeless population has continued to grow, lending credibility to the opinion that the only real solution is construction, which is hampered by price controls, wildfire, and the exodus of home and property insurers.
Rent control has been a proven failure in addressing housing problems. It prompts landlords to convert their properties into owner-occupied homes, and deters investment in the housing market, aggravating the shortages that caused them in the first place. (source)
The situation is dire for people who cannot find housing.
While fires continue to ravage homes and cause billions in damage, the homeless population continues to grow and winter is coming. Surprisingly, the state with the most homeless deaths due to hypothermia is The Sunshine State.
What does that mean for those who cannot find shelter? The homeless, including those who are refugees from the devastation caused by wildfires, will still be on the streets when the temperatures drop. Compassion from their fellow Californians has worn thin. There are fewer options for warm shelter and more people fighting for those few resources provided.
Little has been done to address the fast-approaching problem of “where will they go?” when it gets too cold to be outside. We can only hope that they will find shelter before more tragedy strikes.