With the homeless problem extending far and wide in Los Angeles County, the LA County Board of Supervisors is looking for ways to address the issue while helping the tens of thousands of homeless people in the city. At a recent meeting, the board voted three to two in asking the state to pursue a change in state law that will allow counties to seek a ballot measure to take personal income that is over $1 million per year. According to the proposal, an increase of just one-half percent in taxes could raise more than $243 million that could go toward funding the fight against homelessness within LA County.

A Growing Problem Throughout the County

The LA County and the city of Los Angeles have experienced an increase in homelessness during the past year but a one-half percent tax would first have to be approved by the California Legislature. Assuming it makes it past this point, it would then have to be approved by two-thirds of voters in November before it could be implemented. According to a poll of likely voters that was conducted in April, 76 percent of respondents would “strongly support” such a measure.

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Dissenting Opinions

While many appear to be on board with the tax proposal, Superintendent Michael D. Antonovich voted against the measure. According to him, the money would not help those who are homeless and it would not address addiction or mental health issues. Instead, he says it would only create more revenue for building houses without addressing the root cause of why the individuals are physically or mentally ill. Similar programs, such as the “housing first” initiative in Utah, however, have shown that such programs are helpful because it is much easier for a homeless person to receive treatment while living in a house. This is particularly true if the housing is supportive of such treatment.

Taking a Closer Look at City Funding

In addition to voting for the increase of millionaires’ taxes, the board also voted unanimously to conduct an audit in order to see how the county is currently spending money on the issue. The audit will pay particular attention to how the resources that are allotted to 5 percent of the homeless single adults in the county, and how they are using 40 percent of the allotted funding. Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles has also been reportedly looking at other ways to fund homeless services. Among the proposals are a marijuana tax and a parcel tax.

Clearly, the city of Los Angeles and the county in which it is located have its share of social issues to address, but the fact that the county is actively looking for ways to address the homeless problem is just one of the many factors that sets Los Angeles apart from other major cities throughout the country.

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(all data current as of 5/29/2017)

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