If election results can be used as evidence, Los Angeles residents support development of new housing for the city’s growing homeless population. In 2016, a ballot measure approving $1.2 billion to pay for affordable housing construction passed with more than 75 percent of the vote.
But do residents want to see that new housing rise in their own neighborhoods? The results of a new poll commissioned by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles suggest that, in fact, they do.
In a survey of more than 1,000 likely voters, 69 percent said that they would support construction of permanent supportive housing—which includes on-site services for residents, such as healthcare and addiction treatment—in the neighborhoods they live in. Only 27 percent would be opposed to such development projects.
That’s encouraging to United Way public affairs director Tommy Newman, who tells Curbed that the nonprofit is trying to counter a common narrative that Angelenos don’t want to see housing for the homeless in their own communities.
Newman says the poll results show an “untapped level of energy” among voters that could be harnessed to get affordable housing projects approved when they run up against local opposition.
The United Way is now seeking to capture some of that energy with the launch of its “Everyone In” campaign to educate residents about countywide efforts to combat homelessness, and to encourage them to participate in the process.
The effort kicked off Friday with an event at Echo Park Lake.
“Together, we have a real opportunity to get our homeless neighbors off the streets, out of shelters, and into stable homes for good,” said LA’s United Way president Elise Buik in a statement. “What stops us now, won’t be a lack of homes, but a lack of understanding of the issues and solutions.”
Part of that will be getting people to buy into the broader goals of Measure H: the county’s comprehensive strategy to address homelessness, funded last year by a voter-approved sales tax increase. United Way will maintain a website where the public can find out more about the measure and track the progress of its rollout.
Newman says the county’s plan will take time to make a noticeable impact, and it’s important to highlight what’s being accomplished in the meantime.
“People are more patient when they know there’s a plan in place,” he says.
Another question in the poll asked participants whether they would be more in favor of “addressing the root causes of homelessness, even if it will take longer to reduce the number of people living on the streets” or “reducing the number of people living on the streets as soon as possible, even if it will limit funding available to address the root causes of homelessness.”
Respondents were more split on this question, but 56 percent chose the first option, suggesting to Newman that residents may be ready for a more challenging fight.
One thing nearly everyone agrees on: homelessness has become one of the most pressing concerns now facing the city. 84 percent of respondents said that homelessness is a “very serious issue.” 63 percent also feel that the problem has gotten worse over the last year.
Last year, the results of an annual homeless count showed that the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County had risen 23 percent since the year before. Data for 2018 hasn’t been made available yet, but LA Mayor Eric Garcetti told ABC7 in February that the number is likely to go up again.
Newman says he’s confident that trend can be reversed, as long as community members buy in.
“People can’t always wrap their minds around what’s possible,” he says.