EXPOSITION PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new study is shedding light on the link between racism and homelessness in Los Angeles.
The study found that institutional racism is a major cause of homelessness among black Angelenos.
African Americans represent 30 percent of the homeless in LA even though they are less than 10 percent of the population.
Reba Stevens was once among them. The homeless advocate starting living on the streets at age 19.
"Days turned into weeks. And weeks turned into months. Months turned into decades of me being homeless," she said.
She says substance abuse played a big role.
She knows firsthand the toll homelessness takes on African Americans and now thanks to a new report local leaders have a better understanding too.
"We discovered through the report, there's a lot of upstream in the racism," said homeless advocate Jacqueline Waggoner. "There's multiple systems that fail people, that cause the homelessness. The homelessness is the end result of that.
Along with citing causes for the disparity in the number of African Americans on the street the report also offers some solutions. Local leaders promise to take action on issues like mental health treatment and affordable housing.
While there is no single solution to the problem a change in attitude could be the most important start.
"The very first thing that I realized that we all need is just someone to care without judgment, without criticism," Stevens said.
And now with study complete advocates hope it will spur the change in attitudes needed to begin changing minds about the homeless.