The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

L.A. Working Poor Falling into Homelessness

Apr 30, 2018

Over the last five years, officials in Los Angeles have moved 33,000 homeless people into permanent housing. But that hasn’t stopped homelessness from continuing to mount. Last year, estimates are that about 150,000 people in Los Angeles County suffered homelessness during at least some time during the year.

The flow of people into homelessness in Los Angeles is steady and growing. And no wonder. Rents are high and wages are low. A new study by the non-profit Economic Roundtable found that about half of all families living below the poverty line spend more than 90 per cent of their entire income on rent!

Even if these families receive food stamps (now called CalFresh) and have health coverage through Medi-Cal, there are 600,000 people living on the cusp of homelessness. If they lose any income at all or have to pay any extra expense, they cannot pay their rent, and they risk being evicted and thrown onto the street.

Homelessness is a direct result of the extremely precarious position of the vast majority of the working poor in Los Angeles County. Officially, the homeless situation in Los Angeles is considered worse than anywhere else. Nonetheless, what is happening in Los Angeles is hardly unique.

Everywhere, it is becoming increasingly difficult for big parts of the working class to be able to afford the rent. And for the same basic reason: workers are being increasingly squeezed by both their employer and their landlord.

Just as large Hoovervilles sprang up during the Great Depression of the 1930s, so too are homeless camps once again springing up in Los Angeles and all across the country.

Economists may not yet call this a depression. But it already is for growing layers of the working class.