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L.A. Homeless Community Plagued By Income Disparities

Celeste Alvarez |
October 11, 2013 | 3:54 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

 Skid Row resident Kendrick "O. G." reflects on his nearly 54 years in Los Angeles. (Celeste Alvarez/ Neon Tommy)
Skid Row resident Kendrick "O. G." reflects on his nearly 54 years in Los Angeles. (Celeste Alvarez/ Neon Tommy)

For Skid Row resident Kendrick "O. G." the income disparities in Los Angeles are something he has had to face for more than 53 years. 

"I'm trying to get off the streets and I think the way the city is—it keeps you doing the same old thing,” Kendrick said. “It's like walking in a circle."

The growing wealth gap is one reason Kendrick is hoping to leave the city to start a better life for himself. 

However, Kendrick may have to travel far to escape income inequalities in the U.S. as a recent study found that the gap between the wealthy one percent and the bottom 99 percent is wider than it has been in nearly 100 years. 

Income for the wealthy one percent grew about 86 percent in just 19 years, while the lower 99 percent grew to only about 6 percent, according to the study based on Internal Revenue Service statistics as examined by economists at UC Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

Kendrick joins the many Americans struggling to move beyond their current economic status.

With a total of about 58 thousand Los Angelinos making up the current homeless population in L.A. County, Kendrick is far from alone in his struggles.

Recently the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) reported a 16 percent increase of homeless individuals in the county within the last two years.

Michael Arnold, the executive director of LAHSA blames a significant reduction in the federal resources available to fight homelessness. 

“The increase we see today in our homeless population demonstrates the direct relationship between resources to address the problem and our ability to have an impact,” Arnold said in a press release.

READ MORE: Skid Row Photography Club Gives Homelessness A New Angle

On a positive note, the organization noted a drop in the number of homeless veterans from 8,131 in 2011 to 6,291 in 2013.

Arnold went on to say how the decrease “clearly demonstrates how the right resources, effectively targeted, can prevent and end homelessness,” as the improvements corresponded with a significant increase in federal funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs to help end veteran’s homelessness.

LAHSA attributes the growing rate of homelessness in Los Angeles to the city’s lack of affordable housing and high unemployment. 

“Homeless individuals are among the most vulnerable people in our communities," said County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. "And we can and must do more to help them access new jobs, secure the new affordable housing we are building throughout the county and regain their footing in society."

READ MORE: L.A. County's Homeless Youth Numbers Continue To Rise

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed a similar sentiment in regards to the increase in homelessness within the city.

“The recession left many of our residents without homes and without the support they need to work and provide for their families," said Garcetti. "Creating jobs and providing economic opportunities for those who suffered during the recession is a top priority for our city."

However, for individuals like Kendrick, a future off the streets of LA has began to feel like only a dream. 

Reach Staff Reporter Celeste Alvarez here or follow her on Twitter here.



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