Apr 12, 2021
On March 24, LAPD sent in dozens of riot police to kick out the remaining residents of a homeless encampment in Echo Park near Downtown L.A. The encampment had been there, in a public park, for nearly a year, growing to nearly 200 tents at its height.
In the following days, as cops dispersed protests with brute force (180 arrests were reported in one night alone, as well as severe injuries to protesters and journalists), the city fenced off the park to keep homeless people out; and so now the park is not open to the public either.
Homelessness has exploded in Los Angeles in recent years. By the last official count, from last summer, there were more than 41,000 homeless people in the City of L.A. and more than 66,000 in L.A. County, which are likely to be undercounts. Echo Park was one of many homeless encampments in L.A., where tents of homeless people are found practically everywhere; in parks, under freeway overpasses, along the L.A. River, or simply on city sidewalks. Despite promises of city and county politicians—and ballot measures passed by voters, allocating money to provide housing for the homeless—the number of tents has only been growing.
Before the violent police raid on Echo Park, some of the homeless people living there had already been relocated by the city under a state program called “Project Roomkey.” A few dozen people were placed in hotel rooms, empty due to the COVID pandemic. But this is, at best, a very limited, short-lived answer to homelessness.
In short, city and county officials don’t have any solution to offer to this huge humanitarian crisis. It’s because they will not even go near the root causes of homelessness: housing costs in and around L.A. are astronomical, and there is a severe lack of jobs that pay enough for working-class families to be able to pay the rent and buy necessities also.
Politicians and officials who run the city and county governments will not go near these social causes of homelessness because behind both—high rents and low wages—is the very driving force of the capitalist economy: the profits of the capitalist class, which these politicians and officials serve.
This crisis of homelessness exposes the fundamentally inhumane nature of capitalist society—a society that forces tens of thousands of people to live in tents on the streets of a city, next door to fabulous wealth.