“In a region of abundant wealth and world-class hospitals, people die penniless, they die in pain, they die alone.”
So begins a recent column from Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who has been one of the most vocal journalists covering the worsening humanitarian crisis in Southern California.
On Sunday, September 1, Lopez was with an LA Coroner’s Office investigator who’d responded to a call in Westwood. Just a few miles from both UCLA-Ronald Reagan Medical Center and Cedars Sinai Medical Center, two world-renowned hospitals, a passerby discovered the body of an unidentified homeless man.
“The balding, middle-aged man was facedown on a flattened piece of cardboard, arms at his side, a small pool of blood near his mouth. He wore bluejeans, his feet were bare, and headset buds were still in his ears.”
Lopez watched as the investigator sorted through the man’s belongings and performed a cursory examination of the body for any signs of trauma. The man didn’t have a tent or tarps for shelter; just a piece of cardboard, a sleeping bag, and a backpack.
Munoz performed his duty with an air of respect, taking care in offering this one last service to a fellow human being. He crouched, laid his hands under the man and turned him onto his back. The man’s mouth was bloody. His gray eyes aimed skyward, in the direction of wispy clouds and sunstruck palms.
The man was the third homeless person to die on the streets of Los Angeles that Sunday and the 680th to die in 2019. Los Angeles is on track to break the record set in 2018, when 921 homeless Angelenos died on the streets.
Consider the following numbers for perspective.
“Homelessness is far deadlier than natural disasters. Ten times more people will die on LA’s street in 2019 (~1,000) than died in the deadly 2018 forest fires (103). Over a three year period, more people will die on the streets of LA than died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake.”
The problem is also growing geographically, as homeless deaths are no longer confined to Skid Row.
“Bodies are being found in virtually every corner of the county, a grim consequence of the intensifying epidemic of homelessness. ‘We’re seeing homeless deaths in areas where we didn’t see them five or 10 years ago,’ said Brian Elias, chief of investigations for the county coroner’s office.”
Just last week, the bodies of two men were found on the beach in Torrance (Ted Lieu’s district), more than 20 miles from downtown.
Santa Monica & Venice’s “dead bodies on the beach” stories spread to the beautiful suburban South Bay. It was only a matter of time. pic.twitter.com/Y6yItZVZuP
— Carol (@LAVagrants) September 4, 2019
While substance abuse was among the leading causes of death in homeless people this year, in about 100 of the cases there was no cause determined.
“The coroner’s reports, filled with clinical language and dispassionate narratives, are ghostly sketches of social disorder, poverty, violence, addiction and isolation. They speak to a breakdown that extends beyond homelessness and reaches into our economy, our schools, our criminal justice and healthcare systems.”
The public safety and public health ramifications of this crisis are well-documented, as are its connection to unavailability of comprehensive mental health treatment for the indigent in this country. What’s only recently being widely discussed is the fact that these human beings, many of whom are unable to care for themselves, are being systematically stripped of their human dignity by those who have both the power and the obligation to help, such as Eric Garcetti and Gavin Newsom.
Many conservatives in and out of California, believers in limited government, rightfully believe this issue not the government’s problem to solve. But as none other than Kurt Schlichter (who’s hardly known as a squish on this issue) said a few months back while guest-hosting Larry O’Connor’s talk radio show, one thing the government should do is help those who truly cannot help themselves, such as those with chronic mental illness. The inaction of Eric Garcetti, Gavin Newsom, and their ilk, who knowingly allow these human beings to suffer and die on the streets, is despicable.