Community reflects on homelessness in Studio City – The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

As Will Sonneborn ’24 ran near a homeless encampment, he said he noticed a man holding a sign that read “I’m thirsty and need water.”

Sonneborn said there is a contradiction in witnessing homelessness in a prosperous neighborhood.

“There are a lot of tents, a lot of people who just don’t have anywhere to live,” Sonneborn said. “Especially under the underpasses, it’s really sad to see [because] this is my neighborhood. There are a lot of nice houses here, and then there are a lot of people who don’t have a place to live.

A 2020 survey by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness found that 161,548 people in California may experience housing instability on any given day. Additionally, 271,528 public school students experienced homelessness in 2020. Compared to other states, California has the highest homelessness rates among adults and youth.

Sonneborn said it’s important to remember that each number in a homelessness statistic is a person with their own story, and should be considered as one.

“These are normal people who have lived in bad circumstances or even really been unlucky and were born [into homelessness]said Sonneborn. “They have no control over their situation. I really think like us [as a community] we should try our best to like to treat them more like humans rather than like stats on a chart that need to be eliminated or invisible.

The government is working to provide solutions to homelessness

In an effort to reduce homelessness, incumbent Los Angeles (LA) Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88 spearheaded the HHH proposal. The bond passed a $1.2 billion budget to increase LA’s housing supply for the homeless population and aims to build approximately 10,000 units for the homeless.

Council member Paul Krekorian’s director of communications, Tom Waldman, said a temporary solution to homelessness are “tiny houses,” individual housing units that act as a transition to living in a house. Waldman said the houses create a sense of security for those who have been vulnerable living on the streets.

“The most immediate need is to get people off the streets, especially women, because they are so vulnerable to sexual assault and physical abuse,” Waldman said. “In these tiny houses, you can enter your home at night and lock the door from the inside. Imagine the feeling of security that comes from a person who could have lived on the streets the night before with all the fears and dangers that entails.

The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program, signed by outgoing Los Angeles Governor Gavin Newsom in January 2021, is a service that provides financial relief to eligible renters and landlords who have been impacted by COVID-19. The relief program aims to protect those at risk of becoming homeless and can potentially offset the loss of profit felt by homeowners. Waldman said rent relief programs are a good short-term solution to preventing evictions.

“[The future of the rent relief programs] It remains to be seen what will happen with the payment of rents and what is legal, acceptable and authorized,” Waldman said. “I don’t know if it’s a permanent solution, but it’s possible at least in the short term. So beyond that it’s very hard to say [what will happen] other than that will be a major talking point.

Non-profit organizations help homeless youth

Children of the Night (COTN) is a privately funded non-profit organization that supports children who are sexually exploited or victims of prostitution. Rescuing over 11,000 children, COTN has a helpline that children in desperate circumstances can call for relocation without involving the police.

Executive assistant to COTN founder Lois Lee, Natasha Bashian, said child prostitutes often come from unstable backgrounds.

“Life with a pimp can be better than life at home,” Bashian said. “The homes for these children are extremely chaotic. There is no structure. Many of them behave well and are always punished, misbehave and are either sexually abused or already have a history of sexual assault, be it incest, rape [or] any form of sexual crimes.

In an article published by The Atlantic, “survival sex” is defined as exchanging one’s body for sex in order to obtain basic necessities such as clothing, shelter and food. Bashian said children who run away from home and become homeless may be involved in illegal sex trafficking to survive.

“A pimp not only gives structure because it’s so rigid, but [the children] know what time they are going to eat,” Bashian said. “They know they will have a roof over their heads. As manipulative as pimps can be, prostitution seems to be the best option for many of these children rather than staying home or [outside].”

Bashian said getting a better education is the ultimate way to escape the life of prostitution, and COTN is working to publicize those pathways.

“Many of these young people not only dropped out of high school or never even attempted to go to high school,” Bashian said. “Our in-home tutoring program allows them to earn their GED remotely, which we believe is the ultimate permanent solution to escaping prostitution. Obtaining this high school diploma prepares them not only for the future, but also [determines if] they want to go to college or join law enforcement or the military. I mean, the opportunities are endless.

Bashian said COTN is a support system that impacts those who seek their services.

“I mean, in terms of impact on [child prostitutes] lives individually, we are their lifeline,” Bashian said. “We don’t call any of our children failures. We call them a work in progress. I just think I have a support system, a group of people who don’t judge them a group of people they can rely on a group of people who understand [is important].”

Community members reflect on the importance of reducing homelessness

Matthew Steiglitz ’22 hosted a food drive for the homeless through the Jewish Family Service LA on campus February 1-8.

“Events like food drives help raise awareness of this issue and how we can help those in need,” Steiglitz said. “I would also like to highlight the importance of pantries as a means to improve long-term as well as short-term life outcomes, especially for underserved youth.”

Waldman said many of the city’s efforts to help the homeless have been successful and well received in the Studio City community.

“The community at large has been very supportive of building permanent units,” Waldman said. “We still get a lot of support from the neighborhood council. It was great. In fact, they endorsed the idea and recognize that we need to do more, much more as a city to help people experiencing homelessness on the streets. »