SoCal residents outraged as homelessness crisis continues to cripple their neighborhoods

The homelessness crisis impacts many people in Southern California, and some are addressing the problem head-on as they look for solutions.

Many say the issue is encroaching on where they live, both in their surrounding neighborhood and near their home. Some of those residents say they're tired of dealing with the crisis first hand.

Rick and Robin Marcelli live in a townhouse in Sherman Oaks. They say the homeless crisis has gotten worse over the last year and a half.

"We've walked over needles on this very street. We've walked over human feces on this very street. This is Sherman Oaks. But I'm beginning to call it 'Skid Oaks,'" Rick Marcelli said.

Some incidents include the time a transient reportedly stood outside their front door waving a metal wrench, and a separate incident in which a homeless man was caught taking a bath in their complex's Jacuzzi.

As the Marcellis walk through the neighborhood, they see encampments, shopping carts and tents with homeless people sprawled along the sidewalk.

Rick Marcelli claims it has gotten worse.

"It upsets me to see a human being having to live this way. And our politicians won't come out and really help them," he said.

Twenty-one months since funds generated from the Measure H sales tax started flowing, the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative says it has helped 14,000 people into permanent housing and 28,000 people into emergency shelters.

"The number of families and adults that we have helped move into permanent housing from homeless just in 2018 is unprecedented. More than double what it was from three years ago," Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell said.

In Harbor City, conditions have deteriorated over the past few decades - with some sidewalks littered with trash, occupied by tents and packed with shopping carts overflowing with belongings.

Harbor City residents Lori and Caney Arnold call it a human tragedy.

"Why can't we help people now? We have a tent city that's on the street. People don't like it," Caney Arnold said. "Well, let's set up transitional housing. Maybe a tent city or maybe temporary structures where people get not just shelter, but also services."

Ansell explained why a public health emergency hasn't been declared.

"Given the inflow of people into homelessness, if we had a massive expansion in shelter and did nothing else, then in a relatively short period of time, the number of people on the street would re- accumulate, because of the inflow of people are continuing to become homeless," he said.
Ansell likened the situation to a leaky boat, in which plugging the hole is the only way to stop the vessel from sinking.

Sinking is exactly what Jennifer Bell, a homeless woman, says it feels like to be living on the street.

"It makes me feel like a nobody. It makes me feel like I'm not important. It's a horrible feeling," Bell said.

She's asking for empathy, and help getting services.

Bell is pregnant, but she's unsure of her due date.

"I can't get my benefits. I haven't been able to go to the hospital," she said. "I'll probably be going to Utah and giving the baby up for adoption, because there's no way to win here in California."

Eyewitness News contacted the County's Homeless Outreach Portal online and told them about Bell and her need for prenatal care.
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