LA Homeless Count: Services Not Sweeps to Rally for Unhoused Black Lives

Contact: Arielle Sallai – press@servicesnotsweeps.com

After the midnight release of the 2020 Homeless Count, the Services Not Sweeps coalition urges the City to stop the criminalization of homelessness, defund the police, and invest in housing and services to fight homelessness. 

LOS ANGELES — The day after the release of the staggering LAHSA 2020 Homeless Count — up by double digits even before the impact of COVID-19 — members of the Services Not Sweeps coalition will hold a rally for unhoused Black lives to underscore the link between Black Lives Matters’ demand to defund the police and the City’s inaction on homelessness. With the highest percentage of the budget given to law enforcement, the group argues, the City will never invest sufficient resources into services and housing that unhoused and Black people need. 

WHEN: Saturday, June 13 at 3 p.m.

WHERE: Echo Park Lake (By the Boat House) – 751 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026

WHO: Unhoused residents of Echo Park Lake; Members of the Services Not Sweeps Coalition, including Los Angeles Community Action Network, the Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles (and their Street Watch LA initiative), Ktown For All, and more

WHAT: Community-led rally with Black, unhoused residents and supporting organizations discussing the intersections of policing and homelessness and racism and housing insecurity

The Services Not Sweeps Coalition has also issued the following statement on the 2020 Homeless Count numbers:

The Services Not Sweeps Coalition is horrified to watch Los Angeles move into yet another year of a compounding and catastrophic homelessness crisis. Last night, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of its 2020 Point in Time Homeless Count, showing a jaw-dropping 14% increase in our city’s houseless population – a population in which Black and Latinx Angelenos are, once again, disproportionately represented.  These staggering results reflect more than just abstract figures. Behind these numbers are 5,000 struggling Angelenos – individuals, families, young and old, who now find themselves in an extremely vulnerable situation with little, if any, voice in the municipal policies that determine their day-to-day odds of survival. 

Our coalition exists to remind city and county leaders  that every single one of these Angelenos deserves housing, vital services and an end to lethal interactions with law enforcement. Every person surviving on our streets, living in their car or sleeping on a friend’s couch needs support. The blatant inability of our government to respond to even the most meager of demands, like showers or trash pickup, remains truly incomprehensible.

Furthermore, our city and county leaders continue to spend exorbitant amounts of public funding criminalizing homelessness both through sanitation programs masquerading as “care” and in the form of police. We hear stories daily of the brutal treatment unhoused Angelenos receive from police and sanitation merely for being present on the street. The stories of Victor Valencia, shot dead by LAPD officers responding to his mental health crisis, Richard Castillo, brutally beaten on camera last month, and Cincinnati, a disabled Angeleno shot in the face with a rubber bullet simply because he happened to be present in the area of a protest, all illustrate the dangers houseless Angelenos face in their interactions with law enforcement. 

Los Angeles leaders are grossly negligent in their response to the rapidly rising homelessness crisis. They make this clear every day with policies that heavily restrict where houseless Angelenos can exist in public spaces.  They cement it with funding allocations that solely prioritize criminalization as the answer.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s failure to enact meaningful tenant protections, it’s hard to fathom how high the Homeless Count numbers will rise in 2021. We expect them to drift ever upward, until Los Angeles elected officials prioritize care not cops. To address this catastrophe, we can’t return to the failed policies of the past. We need a paradigm shift. 

We stand in solidarity with our fellow coalitions fighting for rent cancellation, tenants’ rights, workers’ rights and budgetary overhaul as we too anticipate a cascade of hundreds of thousands more falling into homelessness in a city where our government treats human lives as disposable:

  • The No Vacancy CA coalition has called for immediately housing all unhoused Californians in vacant hotel and residential units. 
  • Advocates for the Homes Guarantee are reviving public housing and pushing to transform the investment-driven housing system that has led us to this crisis. 
  • The Healthy LA coalition has fought for rent cancellation and protections for workers. 
  • The People’s Budget LA coalition has offered a comprehensive rethinking of our city budget that prioritizes the people’s needs. 

As thousands across the city take to the streets chanting “defund the police,” it’s long past time for our elected officials at every level to reinvest in our community.