Los Angeles mayoral candidate Karen Bass’s plan to tackle homelessness begins by explaining why they weren’t housed in the first place

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Congresswoman Karen Bass visited one of the South Los Angeles homes owned by Susan Burton’s A New Way of Life nonprofit, which rehabilitates formerly incarcerated women.

Many were left homeless after their release from prison.

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“Her program here, which I saw her start 20 or 25 years ago, really provides services at an extremely low cost, much cheaper than it would be to incarcerate people and get them back into the street,” Bass said. “So what she does when she works with the whole person, when that person… when she’s ready to move out of here and find housing and a job on her own, she’s worked with her for the help make that step.”

If elected mayor of Los Angeles, Bass said her holistic approach to homelessness starts with preventing people from becoming homeless.

“If we’re serious about addressing homelessness, it’s not just about getting people off the streets,” Bass said. “That’s number one, getting people off the streets, but first you have to explain why they weren’t housed and that’s what [Burton] keeps people off the streets after being in temporary accommodation for a minute. What’s a person living in a tent going to do with a quote? How are they going to know when they’re supposed to go to jail and if they’re mentally ill and can’t even understand the conversation?”

For a woman like Diane, who has been homeless and incarcerated since she was 13, this is a step in the right direction.

“Coming here, it breaks me, you know, love is with love,” she said. “Susan Burton…the way she talks to us is not like the way a probation officer will talk to you.”

Diane, who lives at A New Way of Life, said homelessness is a vicious cycle where she never learned the skills needed to succeed.

“You’re not getting rehabilitated. You’re not getting an education. You’re just there with other people who have been victims of this mass incarceration lifestyle,” Diane said.

Bass wants the community to know that homelessness can impact anyone.

“I think when people think of homeless people, they don’t think of women and children,” Bass said. “There are 5,000 children on our streets.”

Bass’s emergency homelessness action would include housing 15,000 people by the end of his first year in office, ending street encampments and directing mental health and addiction treatment .

“If you tell me you want to build housing for the homeless, you come to the front line,” Bass said. “You shouldn’t have to line up with someone building luxury housing. We don’t need luxury housing anymore, in my opinion, in the Los Angeles area,” Bass said.

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