Last month, Philip Alston, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, stated at a news conference in Washington D.C., among other things, that Los Angeles is lagging behind other cities in attacking homelessness. The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a nation’s situation or a specific human rights theme. Alston took a tour of Los Angeles, including skid row, and other states for his report on whether the persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens. Alston believes the U.S. is rich enough to end homelessness. Alston stated,
But we don’t want to put the money into it. We want to see homeless people as losers, a low form of life. The social safety net is riddled with holes. It will essentially be torn apart.
Alston believes that the Trump administration’s promotion of tax reform and welfare cuts will “make the U.S. the world champion of extreme inequality,” exacerbating the homelessness crisis. His report scathed what he viewed as the over-reliance by Los Angeles and other cities on criminalization to “conceal” homelessness. He highlighted that Los Angeles police arrested almost 7,000 homeless people on skid row from 2011 to 2016. According to a spokesman of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the mayor believes the way to solve the homelessness crisis is by focusing on housing and services, rather than citation and imprisonment.
Alston also stated that there is much good in the United States, including its wealth, a strong work ethic from its residents, along with an innovative capacity and municipal officials and community groups that are determined to improve social protection for the poorest 20 percent of the people in their communities. Alston gave his initial findings at the news conference last month, but his full report is due in the spring. Although the U.S. is not expected to face U.N. sanctions, the report will more than likely be closely watched in Europe. Alston’s findings should be interesting and should provide the U.S. with things it can improve.