Columnists Mayor Eric Garcetti Opinion

COMMUNITY REPORT: Homeless programs help couple feel ‘free’ again

When Lawrence and Carla McCue met, it was love at first sight and it wasn’t long before they were married. Between Lawrence’s private-sector law enforcement jobs — a natural fit after serving in the Marines — and Carla’s position in the hospitality industry, they had no problem making ends meet.

That all changed when Lawrence suffered complications from diabetes. They were forced to move into an old motorhome, which they parked close to Carla’s work so she would have a quick commute. It’s painful for Carla to think back on those days “working full time, and taking care of Lawrence — and still — my home was a car.”

The McCues’ story cuts a familiar path and is a reminder that far too often there’s a black face on our homelessness crisis. It is not a coincidence that homeless are disproportionately African American. This nation has a history of systemic racism — and discrimination continues to have a direct impact on black Americans until we take action.

Angelenos are coming together to confront, and end, this homelessness crisis. Earlier this year, I joined city, county, and community leaders for the release of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s report by the Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. The report revealed that while black people represented only 9 percent of the general population across the county, in 2017 they comprised 40 percent of the population experiencing homelessness.

Working together with leaders like Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, we are turning the corner on this crisis by viewing all aspects of homelessness through the lens of racial equity. Since I took office, we have permitted more than 91,000 housing units and are on track to meet my 100,000-unit goal two years early.

Thanks to Measure H and Proposition HHH and our advocacy in Sacramento, we have delivered nearly $5 billion to end homelessness. And we are hiring an army of new outreach workers, mental health professionals, housing navigators, and addiction specialists to reach our homeless neighbors. These milestones, and others, have made it possible to permanently house nearly 17,000 people last year and bring families like the McCues indoors. 

And while we’re cutting the red ribbon on new housing, we also must continue to address tenants’ rights and involve people of color in how we build out new supportive and affordable housing. But we cannot build our way out of this crisis. We need to confront the structural issues which force someone onto the streets.

Los Angeles is a city of second chances. We don’t care about where you’ve been. We are focused on where you want to go and how we can help you get there.

Through programs like New Roads to Second Chances, which has connected hundreds of Angelenos to jobs improving our freeways, to HireLAX, which provides people with the construction skills they need to secure middle-class jobs, we are making sure every Angeleno can act on the promise of a bright future.

From their new apartment, the McCues recently celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary. If you ask them what it’s like to once again have a home, they will be the first to tell you how nice it is “to stretch and relax on the bed instead of being cramped up in the car, to not be afraid for your safety.” But most of all, they “feel free.”

Angelenos like the McCues are why we’re fighting to make sure all of our neighbors have a place to call home. We’re doing it one life at a time — or in this case, two.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs the first Thursday of every month in The Wave.