As waves of homeless descend onto trains, L.A. tries a new strategy: social workers on the subway #Homeless #LosAngeles @laura_nelson @steveclowLA @2020lens @latimes
— Francine Orr/LATimes (@francineorr) April 8, 2018
Very good article and photographs by reporter Laura Nelson and Francine Orr, respectively, in the LAT article published on Friday. Excerpt:
The Metro system has been a refuge for homeless people for decades. But as Los Angeles County’s homeless population has surged, reaching more than 58,000 people last year, the sanitation and safety problems on trains and buses are approaching what officials and riders say are crisis levels.
People looking for warm, dry places to sleep have barricaded themselves inside emergency exit stairwells in stations, leaving behind trash and human waste. Elevator doors coated in urine have stuck shut. Mentally ill and high passengers have assaulted bus drivers and other riders.
Amid a wave of complaints about homelessness, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has bolstered spending on law enforcement and security by 37% this year. But the agency is testing a different approach, too: social workers on the subway.
Under a one-year, $1.2-million contract — one of the first of its kind in the country — outreach workers spend five days a week on the Metro Red Line, trying to help the system’s homeless riders.
It’s a much longer article and I highly encourage you to give it a read. I would also like to know how you think it jibes with your own experiences riding Metro. The outreach teams, btw, are working on the subway because it’s Metro’s highest ridership line and is entirely sheltered from the elements.
KPCC’s AirTalk also aired a segment Friday featuring Laura Nelson and Metro’s Alex Wiggins (he’s the agency’s Chief of System Security). Listeners phoning into the show, as expected, had plenty to say. You can listen here.
From AirTalk: As of Friday, the homeless outreach team on Metro had made
contact with 2,420 homeless individuals in the prior 10 months. Of those, 252 had been connected to housing resources, 238 to shelters or transitional housing and 22 into their own home.
“Our ultimate goal is to — and our Board of Directors and our CEO Phil Washington has really made this clear — is to really increase the safety and perception of security for our passengers,” Wiggins said on AirTalk. “We want to approach this holistically with dignity but at the end of the day we really have to guarantee our riders a safe trip. So in working with PATH and a number of other stakeholders, I think we’re beginning to make good inroads.”
The Metro Board of Directors had a lengthy discussion about the agency’s homeless outreach efforts at their March Board meeting. You can listen here — click on Item 14 to go straight to that discussion. Below is a presentation given at the meeting.
Finally, I’ll say this: I don’t think anyone believes homelessness in our region is an intractable or unsolvable problem. But it has also been an extremely difficult issue for many decades that has many root causes, including one that we literally can’t solve: pretty good year-round weather.
It probably doesn’t make it any easier that we live in a region with six counties and hundreds of cities, none of whom really have the financial or mental health resources that would be ideal for dealing a problem of this magnitude. Our Metro system is part of the region and will to some degree always be affected by things happening in the world around us. I don’t write that as an excuse, but as something I think is a reality.