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Homeless encampments grow in L.A. as America's economic decline accelerates

Homeless encampments

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(NaturalNews) During the Great Depression in the 1930s, they were often referred to as "Hoovervilles" -- communities of homeless Americans who built shanty dwellings out of anything they could find, such as cardboard, small pieces of wood and tin. They were named after President Herbert Hoover, who was blamed for the Depression because he was president in 1929 when the stock market crashed.

Today, homeless communities -- though not yet called "Obamavilles" -- are increasingly sprouting up in many urban centers, another sign that the U.S. economy simply is not as vibrant as the White House and its cheerleaders in media and the world of finance would have you believe.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Evicted four months ago from their Highland Park apartment, Louis Morales and his 18-year-old stepson, Arthur Valenzuela, live half-hidden by brush along the nearby Arroyo Seco riverbed.

Morales, 49, keeps a framed bible verse and a stuffed monkey in his tent. Water hauled by bike from a park heats up on the camp stove.

Next door, their friend Johnny Salazar fixes bikes and shattered computer screens on the cheap for people who live in the neighborhood. A brother and sister Morales has known for years live up the river, and three couples stay down by the bridge.

"Everybody here is from Highland Park," Valenzuela said. "We don't allow other people."

Calls regarding homeless people up nearly double from previous year

The paper went on to report that, over the past two years, such encampments have reached beyond their historic boundaries in downtown Los Angeles. Now, they line freeways and are also beginning to fill up freeway bridge underpasses "from Echo Park to South Los Angeles," the paper said.

The problem is so endemic in the city that there is even a government agency to deal with it -- the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a city-county entity. The agency handled 767 calls about street encampments last year, up 60 percent from 479 in 2013.

Some local residents have complained that city officials are merely exporting the downtown homeless problem to their neighborhoods. However, the Times reported that social services agencies say the problem is not that black-and-white; the agencies say that, though downtown development and clean-ups of skid row have occurred, many camps are inhabited by locals.

Surging rents, funding shortfalls and closures of some homeless shelters have led an increasing number of residents to leave neighborhoods such as Highland Park and Boyle Heights for the streets. There, the Times reports, the residents cling to familiar surroundings.

"Homeless people, especially the mentally ill, they don't like new," Senior Lead Officer Gina Chovan of the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division told the paper. "They want to stay where they know all the nooks and crannies."

Due to a series of court decisions, city authorities have mostly stopped breaking up homeless communities and taking their trash and belongings; that has meant that camps are multiplying in both number and size.

Homeless numbers increasing in a stagnant economy

The Times further reported:

Whether homeless people are more numerous or simply more visible could be answered by the biennial tally taking place [in late January].

As many as 6,000 volunteers will go out... searching for homeless people living in alleys, riverbeds, cars and RVs. For the first time, homeless people will be asked about their gender identity, domestic violence and prison histories, and years of military service -- information that could better track where they came from and why.

The mayor of L.A., Eric Garcetti, has boosted the stakes in dealing with the issue. He has promised to take the city's estimated 3,400 homeless veterans off the streets by the end of 2015.

In all, city and county officials estimate that there are at least 38,000 homeless people throughout L.A. County.

Other demographics are also becoming homeless. The Huffington Post reported in September that the number of homeless students was rising as well. The site said the number reached a record high during the 2012-2013 school year: 1,258,182.





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