LA’s Latest Homelessness Problem: Expensive Toilets

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Here’s the latest controversy over LA’s growing homelessness problem:

L.A. has estimated that staffing and operating a mobile bathroom can cost more than $300,000 annually — a price tag that has galled some politicians. During budget talks this spring, city officials estimated that providing toilets and showers for every homeless encampment in need would cost more than $57 million a year. “How many single-family homes could you build for that much money?” Councilman Paul Krekorian asked at a hearing at City Hall last month, saying that L.A. had to find a cheaper solution.

This comes on the heels of a report that the interim shelters LA is currently building are coming in both late and vastly over budget.

This is such a peculiar problem. I keep reading about it, and yet the answers seem so elusive. Part of the problem, I suppose, is that when cities house the homeless they aren’t allowed to take shortcuts. Their shelters have to be built to code and they have to provide handicapped access and they have to be supervised and so forth. Especially, in a big city, that’s expensive.  People are often shocked at the cost of building schools in big cities too, but that’s just the nature of a place with high land values.

And yet . . . it sure seems as if you could make fairly quick inroads by focusing at least some attention on merely making things better, rather than making things great. There are, after all, many different kinds of homeless people, and some them actively resist living in conventional shelters. Isn’t it possible to at least provide them something they’re comfortable with, even if it’s little more than a better tent in an area with food and sanitation and just enough supervision to keep it safe? Would this be illegal? Or attract endless lawsuits? I don’t know. But if the only answer is multimillion dollar shelters for every single homeless person, then even LA’s billion-dollar Measure H sales tax won’t be enough to make a real dent. And it won’t attract the folks who simply refuse to live in managed shelters anyway.

I know all this stuff has been thought through a thousand times already, and the biggest problem remains community opposition to homeless shelters in their neighborhoods, but still. It sure seems like there’s something not quite right about all this.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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