Homeless, addicted, pregnant — and failed by the city of LA

To the editor: I’ve lived in L.A. for 40 years and I’ve never seen homelessness as bad as it is now. I veer from compassion and sympathy to anger and disgust over the situation. (“‘Hollywood’s finest,’” July 13)

America is a rich country, but it’s also a place where it’s easy to become poor, homeless and invisible. In this capitalist society, we look away from those people. That’s a hard cultural barrier to overcome.

I used to give money to homeless people routinely, but a few years ago I stopped. I recently gave a man $20, but otherwise, I am just like most people in this city: I’m tired of seeing them, their stuff and their behavior.

What to do though? The problems that have caused this crisis are many and rooted in actions and policies of the past. We passed bond measures for more housing and services, but the amount of support the unhoused require is astounding. Each person has so many issues, and just reading this story demonstrated how much help Mckenzie needed, particularly as a mother.

Los Angeles is failing. Like many other people, I am ready to leave. I have been watching it sink under inept leadership for years now.

I really appreciate this reporting. Kudos for the excellent work.

Tania Nordstrom, Chatsworth

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To the editor: No one person’s story can represent all the facets of homelessness, but your three-year reporting focus on Mckenzie Trahan painfully illuminates many of the gaps in Los Angeles’ social support system. As a service provider, we often meet people after all other safety nets have failed.

Service types are subject to often-changing political winds and funding opportunities. Mckenzie’s harrowing story is also a story about poverty’s intergenerational impacts and society’s rejection of people who struggle with substance use and mental health challenges.

This in-depth story amplifies a voice that is almost always missing in conversations about homelessness: someone with lived experience. These stories sit with me, and I remind myself how hard our team members work to help our participants the best we can.

It’s crucial to remember that more can always be done and that we need to invest more in supportive services, not less.

Jennifer Hark Dietz, Los Angeles

The writer is chief executive of People Assisting The Homeless.

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To the editor: Reporter Gale Holland’s moving story about Mckenzie Trahan, a young, unhoused woman who has struggled with years of homelessness, shows the human cost of our region’s complicated, uncoordinated and unaccountable response to the crisis.

The burden often falls on unhoused people to navigate a complicated labyrinth of well-intended programs, sometimes working at odds and rarely as one system. Mckenzie sees this so clearly.

People experiencing homelessness need our help, compassion and love. I’m afraid if we are not honest about how we have failed people like Mckenzie, we will not get any closer to ending homelessness, especially for the most vulnerable.

Miguel Santana, Los Angeles

The writer is president and chief executive officer of the Weingart Foundation and served as chief administrative officer for the city of Los Angeles.

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To the editor: I am amazed at how much patience and stamina it took for Mckenzie to get as far as she did in the legal and homeless outreach systems. For housed people, just getting through the day dealing with credit card companies, banks, the IRS, schools, utilities and the like require great stamina.

Now, imagine if we had to deal with that kind of pressure with no home and public transit at our disposal.

At no point in your article was there a mention of Mckenzie being offered any kind of mentorship. One-on-one mentorship is the only way to help people like her who have never had any kind of stability in their lives or had any opportunity to learn how to take care of themselves.

We all suffer from L.A.’s rot, but some more than others.

Paula Del, Los Angeles

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