Recent, random attacks by homeless people have left many people concerned for their safety on the streets of Southern California.
On Oct. 14, a homeless man was arrested in Long Beach after allegedly stabbing four people, killing one of them.
On Oct. 10, a homeless man was captured on video stabbing a woman in the head with a pair of gardening shears.
On Sept. 30, a homeless man attacked a Studio City man with a metal pole, sending him to the hospital.
Also in September, the City of Long Beach closed The Billie Jean King Main Library due to ongoing threats and attacks on library staff by mentally unstable homeless individuals.
Mental health is an issue that continues to afflict the homeless population and experts say these violent attacks can often be attributed to mental health episodes.
Studio City neighborhood on edge after homeless man allegedly attacks homeowner with metal pole
Jeffery Levine, an advocate who has worked with homeless people in California for 16 years, uses situational awareness when encountering a homeless person if they are acting erratic. He watches their movements, specifically their hands, to see if they will attempt to be a threat to him without immediately assuming that something terrible will happen.
“I don’t think we have to pretend that we don’t live in a violent world. I do not think that we need to live in fear, but I think we need to live wisely,” Levine said.
He also recommends that people stay aware of their surroundings at all times, maintain space between themselves and the homeless person, as well as to avoid going out alone.
Levine is the executive director of Long Beach Rescue Mission. This faith-based organization assists homeless people by providing housing, meals, and programs that address mental health and substance abuse.
A September study from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) showed that the homeless population in L.A. County has increased by 4.1% since 2020. A study was not conducted in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To find a solution, homelessness shouldn’t be regarded as simply a housing issue, Levine says.
“It’s not just an economic or housing issue that leads to homelessness. The leading contributing factor to a person experiencing homelessness is childhood trauma,” Levine said.
A 2013 study from The American Journal of Public Health shows that adults that experienced adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction during their childhood experience are more likely to be homeless during their adult life.
Alcoholism or drug abuse can affect homelessness since that person is trying to escape or dull the pain of their trauma, Levine said.
“When I see someone experiencing homelessness or sleeping on the street, the first thing that comes to my mind is this person was once a child and now they are an adult trying to deal with their trauma.”
For Levine, issues like mental health, substance abuse and employment need to be addressed simultaneously in order to end homelessness in L.A. County.
“I don’t think it’s just put them in housing; we have to develop a system of care that will address all of those underline contributing factors.”