Letters to the Editor: L.A. politicians face a reckoning on homelessness in next year's election

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SAN PEDRO, CA - MAY 29: Council member Joe Buscaino of the 15th district, speaks during at an event at a section of Sixth Street is closed down between Mesa and and Centre streets in San Pedro where seating for dining is on Friday, May 29, 2020 in San Pedro, CA. On Friday, Los Angeles County received permission to reopen restaurants for in-person dining and resume services at barbershops and hair salons, marking a new phase in the regions efforts to restart the devastated retail economy. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is running for mayor, wants an initiative on next year's municipal ballot that he says is needed to solve homelessness. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The Times Editorial Board criticized Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino's motion for a ballot measure to address the crisis on our streets as futile and self-serving. But providing shelter, treatment and clean and clear sidewalks and parks is not futile. Anything that gets us there should be considered.

And let's be honest about the logjam at City Hall: An ongoing federal lawsuit, a sheriff crossing jurisdictional lines, several recall threats of sitting councilmembers and four unhoused deaths each day cannot seem to get the city to take the necessary action.

While outreach protocols and the city's new anti-camping ordinance appear to address some of these issues, we know that they are weak attempts at pretending to do something to stave off voter outrage.

The L.A. Alliance for Human Rights is working for real change. We sued the city and county to create a legally enforceable mandate whereby the community provides beds and services to those ready, willing and able to accept shelter. At the same time, living in public spaces must be forbidden and the laws enforced. This is a balanced social contract to provide for the most vulnerable while removing those who prey on the unhoused and the communities in which they reside.

Next year's municipal election will be a referendum on the region's failures on homelessness. The voters know this, and the efforts that candidates take to solve homelessness — including ballot measures — will distinguish the true seekers of change from the defenders the status quo.

Paul Webster, Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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