Chronic homelessness has risen 65% in the U.S. in the past 7 years, much of the increase has happened in West Coast cities like Los Angeles and Portland.
“It used to be – just less than 4 years ago – that 85% of our houseless people were from this city,” explains community architect Mark Lakeman:
“But since the acceleration of the economic disparity people have been coming from the interior of the country where it’s oftentimes way too hot or way too cold for people to be able to survive. So there are thousands more people, millions more people, I would say on the west coast that are homeless than ever before.”
Lakeman helped organize the founding of Dignity Village, which resident and president, Lisa Larson, describes as “the only city-sanctioned, self-supporting, self-governing homeless community in North America.” He’s also helped plan other DIY communities “where people can actually be stable on a piece of land.”
Forty percent of California’s homeless live in Los Angeles, but Rowan Vansleve, who helps run tiny home villages in LA, thinks it’s a fixable problem. He says 60% of those they approach want help getting off the streets. Vansleve gave us a tour of the Chandler Tiny Home Village in North Hollywood where formerly homeless people live in their own small abodes with shared showers and toilets and a communal dining space.
To help address the thousands of people sleeping in their vehicles, we visited one of the lots of Safe Parking LA (Saint Mary’s church in Koreatown), where we met founders Ira and Pat Cohen, who have spent more than a decade trying to help vehicle-dwellers get a safe night’s sleep.