The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

L.A. Judge’s Solution to Homelessness
—Get Rid of Them!

May 24, 2021

A federal judge in Los Angeles made headlines when he imposed a 180-day deadline for Los Angeles officials to offer shelter to all 6,000 homeless people living in Skid Row, an enormous concentration of homeless people living in downtown L.A. In his decision, the judge excoriated government officials for mishandling $1.3 billion budgeted for homeless services, stating, “All the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of the crisis.”

But behind the judge’s rhetoric is a great big gift for real estate developers and the local officials who serve them. For the ruling states that as soon as Los Angeles officials have demonstrated to the judge that they have offered homeless people some form of shelter, the police can move in and remove any and all homeless persons still living on the streets of Skid Row. This does not mean the officials have to actually provide permanent subsidized housing, rather, they only have to be able to point to available space in shelters or sanctioned tent encampments.

Over the last couple of decades, big parts of downtown Los Angeles have been transformed, as block after block of formerly run-down warehouses, factories and apartment buildings are being turned into trendy new office and apartment buildings and complexes. This boom is far from over. Currently, there are 51 active construction sites of high-end office and luxury apartment buildings going up all over downtown, all of it heavily subsidized by tax breaks and other public giveaways.

All this is happening amidst record amounts of homelessness, poverty and misery that is concentrated in the 50-block downtown neighborhood known as Skid Row. Visiting U.N. officials have even found that Skid Row has worse sanitary conditions than refugee camps in war-torn countries.

The business community in the downtown has long pressured city officials to force all those homeless out. But up until now, the police have been constrained by the courts, because the courts say there are few if any facilities or shelters for the homeless to go to.

This may all soon change, if the ruling by the judge, which is now being challenged in a higher court, is allowed to stand. If that happens, Los Angeles, which has some of the worst homelessness of any big city, may serve as the model for the rest of the country of how public officials manage the worsening crisis, by simply removing homeless people from urban centers which have become desirable for business interests.

In fact, the homeless crisis is simply a part of the much-worsening economic and social crisis that is gripping big parts of the working class, as the corporate drive for profit leads to ever greater poverty and misery. Unable to even make some kind of progress in dealing with homelessness, capitalists and their officials are simply looking for ways to keep all those impoverished people away from their shiny, gleaming neighborhoods.