Petition demands Los Angeles provide sanctuary and shelter for all

There are more than 34,000 people in Los Angeles who are homeless, like this man in Beverly Hills. Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
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After months of national demonstrations against the Trump regime’s onslaught against poor and suffering people, the Los Angeles Freedom Socialist Party branch and supporters went on the offensive. In February, they launched a petition drive demanding that the city government guarantee protection and survival services for both immigrant and homeless residents.

The petition calls on the Mayor and City Council to:

• Officially declare Los Angeles a sanctuary city by designating all city libraries, park and recreation facilities, social services offices and government buildings to be off limits to Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

• Immediately declare a homelessness state of emergency (to get additional federal money). Open the city’s many vacant properties to homeless residents, and provide restrooms, garbage pick-up, and other survival services at each location.

Defend all immigrants. Under community pressure, Los Angeles has taken some measures to protect immigrants and limit police cooperation with ICE. But the city has resisted officially declaring sanctuary.

Meanwhile, ICE has been hunting immigrants, conducting raids and sweeps, showing up in grocery stores and going door to door — all with total impunity. They grabbed Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a 48-year-old father, after he dropped off one daughter at school while another daughter sobbed in the back seat. They arrested Claudia Rueda, a Cal State LA university student targeted for leading protests when ICE detained her mother. LA’s immigrant communities live in constant fear.

Sanctuary alone is no panacea, but it does help protect families and embattled communities. Sanctuary legislation is pending in California’s State Assembly, and over 90 California cities and counties have adopted various sanctuary policies. A stronger declaration by Los Angeles would give weight to this movement.

Homeless crisis facts. As of January 2017, the homeless population in Los Angeles was 34,189, up 20 percent since last year. Homeless Latinos increased by 66 percent, youth by 64 percent, veterans by 57 percent and families by 30 percent. Blacks make up 40 percent of the homeless, though they are less than ten percent of LA’s population. One-fifth of LA Community College students are homeless.

These appalling statistics will climb unless public officials address root causes: gentrification, foreclosures, evictions, huge rent increases, destruction of low-income housing, very limited rent control, and social discrimination. Passing a moratorium on evictions and instituting universal rent control would be a good start. The government is responsible for providing quality shelter and basic necessities to all homeless people, immigrant or not, until stable housing is available.

Profiteers out. There is plenty of big money in Los Angeles to provide decent housing for all. But the banks and mega corporations that control this wealth invest their profits in making more money. And the city government protects them through corporate welfare. For example, it grants massive tax breaks and exemptions from zoning rules, in exchange for a woefully insufficient amount of low income-housing.

Los Angeles working people want the crisis solved. They voted for a $1.2 billion bond measure to create 1,000 new low-income housing units per year for the next ten years. A $3.5 billion LA County sales tax will add services and rent subsidies for the same period. But money raised by these regressive taxes will not keep up with the increase in homelessness, because the root causes are not being tackled.

Some practical solutions. Public ownership and management of low-income housing is more efficient and cost effective than subsidizing private development. The city should raise taxes on big business and millionaires for public housing, shelters, and public campgrounds. LA could start with its own vacant buildings and lots. If the city built or renovated and managed public housing directly, many more units could be produced and for far less.

Los Angeles spends $14 million yearly in “clean-ups” that destroy beds, carts, and camping structures. They seize all property that won’t fit in a 60-gallon container. Instead, why not provide restrooms, storage lockers, regular garbage service, and even mobile laundry trucks like Denver does?

Over a thousand people have already signed the petition because it gives concrete and doable solutions to epidemic problems. Contact us if you would like to help on this campaign to defend the basic human rights of LA’s immigrant and U.S.-born residents.

Click here to sign the petition!

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