Homelessness in Los Angeles has risen sharply over the past few years, climbing from 36,000 in 2012 to more than 53,000 in 2018. Unlike other parts of the country where most of the unhoused live in shelters, the vast majority of L.A.’s homeless population (75%) lives on the street. This has led to thousands of encampments in and around the city, including our own Campbell Hall neighborhood. Passover and Easter weekend seems a fitting time to consider the plight of our local neighbors experiencing homelessness from a holistic perspective.
The people experiencing homelessness under the 101 freeway bridge on Laurel Canyon have been a cause of some concern, both for the safety of our students and for the well-being of those living under these difficult conditions. High School Chaplain Joey Courtney, my wife Katie Bull, and others have been working diligently with local and city officials, and organized a meeting this wi∂nter with school administrators, chaplains, Parents’ Association leadership, representatives from L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian’s Office, and Senior Lead Police Officer Shawn Smith, to discuss the housing crisis in our school neighborhood. As we learned, this is a complex issue that does not have a straightforward solution. Due to the shortage of shelters in Los Angeles and utter lack of beds in the San Fernando Valley, there are very few options for many of our city’s vulnerable homeless population.
Our students’ security and health remain our primary concern and we are working closely with our local police force to monitor the situation. As you have no doubt noticed, the police do clear out encampments every few weeks, and they try, as their busy schedules allow, to enforce laws regarding blocking sidewalks, aggressive panhandling, and sleeping on the streets. Members of the LA HOP team stop by from time to time to provide a range of services to the encampments, and Chaplain Courtney connects with them occasionally. While the group camping currently has completed housing assessments with L.A. Family Housing, there is an extremely long waiting list.
As always, there are teachable moments here for our children. We recommend that you do not give panhandlers money or food, which only encourages more to overlook the horrible risks of camping on such a busy street. Instead, volunteer for food banks and other programs and educate your students on the broader issues surrounding homelessness, including the need for shelters in every Los Angeles neighborhood. Support Councilman Krekorian’s plan to build temporary bridge housing in our district, following Measure HHH which was passed by 77% of Los Angeles voters in 2016; if our response to such initiatives is, “not in my backyard,” then those camping under our bridge will continue to have nowhere to go. Many people experiencing homelessness in our communities are families and seniors. If you happen to be a landlord, you can help ease this burden by joining the county’s rental assistance program which helps with the costs of moving these families by providing rent subsidies. The Campbell Hall Outreach Committee has formed a sub-committee on homelessness. If you would like to join the committee, please contact Chaplain Joey Courtney.
Finally, please join us for HomeWalk on May 18. We have formed team “Campbell Hall Vikings” and we look forward to having fun while raising money for an important cause.
This weekend especially, may we all treasure the fact that we have been offered such a nourishing spiritual home. From that place of hope and safety, all is possible.
4533 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Studio City, CA 91607 Phone 818.980.7280
Campbell Hall is an independent, Episcopal, K-12 coeducational day school. We are a community of inquiry committed to academic excellence and to the nurturing of decent, loving, and responsible human beings.