As many people living in the Los Angeles area are quite aware, L.A. County has scores of homeless living within its vast metropolis and natural terrains.
Under bridges, alongside river beds, beneath trees—their encampments remain virtual invisible to mainstream society.
According to a 2011 report by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, about 51,340 homeless live in the L.A. area. Of those, 18 percent are veterans, 22 percent have physical disabilities, 33 percent suffer from mental illness and 34 percent have substance abuse problems. Although the majority of the homeless live in dense urban area, many are forced to make their homes in the brush of L.A.’s natural terrains. To see the entire report view the PDF attached to this article.
As a hiker who enjoys exploring L.A.’s vast wilderness, I’ve encountered many homeless people both in manmade and natural areas, proving that it can be difficult to escape the urban setting and many of its problems. And while no one can argue against the human toll when it comes to the issue of homelessness, the environmental impacts that these encampments create are also a cause for concern.
However, considering the numerous ordinances throughout L.A. that basically push the homeless back and forth between different communities, they’re not left with many choices when faced with the need to find shelter. According to a 2008 article in the Los Angeles Times, roughly 20 percent of L.A. County’s homeless can’t find a bed in shelters on any given night.
More recently, in the Hollywood Bowl area on Friday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department personnel conducted a homeless “outreach” program, which helped to clear an encampment in the hills above the Ford Theater.
While some of those contacted through the Homeless Outreach Project accepted help from authorities to receive shelter and/or medical and mental health treatment, others were given the opportunity to “relocate to an environment,” according to a statement released by officials.
Also, earlier this week, new policies implemented in Venice Beach have outright banned overnight camping in the area, making homelessness virtually illegal. The L.A. City Council recently passed an ordinance banning vending on the western side of the and extended a previous ordinance, which closes the beach between midnight and 5 a.m., to include Venice Blvd.
What does this mean for homeless populations in those areas? It means migration, and possibly a boom in San Gabriel Valley’s homeless encampments.
Either way, the problem of homelessness cannot be solved by simply pushing the issue from one municipality to another. Of course, safety, crime and environmental impacts are always an issue, but until a permanent solution can be found, the best answer is tolerance and community outreach.
I urge all fellow hikers, not only those who care about the environment, but also those who want to help the homeless, to put their feet where their heart is and take part in the 2nd Annual Hike for the Homeless on April 28 in Griffith Park.
The hike is a fundraiser benefitting the Cardinal Manning Center, an organization that has been fighting homelessness on Skid Row for more than six decades by addressing the needs of the men, women and children who end up there.
Participants can choose between two courses, a 2.64 mile hike touring the beautiful hills of Griffith Park on the Fern Canyon Trail or a two mile jaunt on the Zoo Trail.
Registration begins at 7 a.m., followed by an Opening Ceremony with live music at 8 a.m., and then the start of the hike at 8:30 a.m. T-shirts and snacks will be handed out prior to the hike, and burritos and more entertainment await hikers at the finish line.
Last year, the event drew about 400 and this year, organizers are hoping for 1,000 participants, according to organizers.
To find out more about this great event, click here.