Black people make up only 8 percent of L.A. County’s population, but 42 percent of homeless Angelenos are black—a disparity that has been fueled by decades’ worth of systemic racism and discrimination, according to a new report from the New York Times.
In the analysis, the paper examined how the criminal justice system, the history of redlining, and modern-day housing discrimination have contributed to the fragmentation of black communities in the city, fueling displacement and resulting in tens of thousands of black people losing their homes. More than 60,000 black Angelenos experienced homelessness this year, according to the report.
South L.A., once the epicenter of black life in the city, has been ravaged by the housing crisis, with about 50 percent of the area’s black households experiencing severe rent burdens. In the ’50s and ’60s, many black families were restricted to neighborhoods like Crenshaw, Watts, and South Park due to the racist practice of redlining, which marked certain areas as “undesirable” for real estate investments and prevented those families from getting homes.
Later, as the cost of housing rose and more Latino residents moved into the area, many black residents left, leaving only the poorest families behind. While redlining was banned by the Fair Homes Act of 1968, racial discrimination in the city’s real estate market continues, with black homeownership falling 36 percent from 44 percent over the past 50 years.
Disparities in the criminal justice system have also contributed to the cycle of black homelessness. Only 6 percent of California’s population is black, as opposed to 30 percent of its prison population. Having a criminal records can make it far more difficult for an individual to find jobs and housing once they are released from jail.
“There is probably no more single significant factor than incarceration in terms of elevating somebody’s prospects of homelessness,” former Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority director Peter Lynn told the Times.
Currently, L.A. is scrambling to house the more than 44,000 people who sleep on its streets each night. The report is a sobering reminder that it will take more than just new housing to fix the problem—it will take a concerted effort to address the systemic racism that created it in the first place.
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