Category Archives: Homeless

Finally, A Step in the Right Direction to Help Mentally-Ill Homeless

Recently, I have observed an upswing in the number of residents, businesses and tourists asking why the City and State allow obviously-mentally ill people to wander our streets, endangering both themselves and the public. It is a fair question, but there has been no acceptable answer to this question.

Finally, we are beginning to see some of our public officials address what is a deplorable situation. Plaudits go to our L.A. County Board of Supervisors for approving a motion last week asking the California State legislature to change how they define the words “grave disability”, which might have a positive impact on the current situation.

Under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967, a person is gravely disabled – and can be taken into custody and forcibly medicated – only if they are unable to meet basic needs for food, clothing or shelter. The county is requesting that the definition be expanded to include those who are unable to seek needed medical care, which would allow custody and compelled treatment of people who, in a court’s view, need medication but aren’t seeking it on their own.

Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas co-sponsored the motion, and Barger noted that the county has to do better at getting people the healthcare they need. She’s right!

Only a year ago this week, a mentally-deranged homeless person entered the Jack-in-the Box restaurant on Sunset Blvd. at Cahuenga and stabbed three customers with a large knife before the LAPD shot him dead. Just this past Thanksgiving weekend, another mentally-ill person threatened people on Hollywood Blvd. with a screwdriver before grabbing a knife from a restaurant and stabbing a tourist.

These are not isolated cases. I hear frequently of other incidents involving homeless individuals who are mentally unstable. In my 25 years at the Chamber, I have never seen it as bad as it is today. The situation with the mentally ill has definitely deteriorated over that time period, which calls for a review of how they should be treated and a review of the civil rights argument.

We want to make this a walkable urban community, but that cannot happen if people are worried they will be attacked by the mentally ill. At some point, we will see an impact on jobs and our economy if these issues aren’t addressed. People will not visit or work in a community if they don’t feel safe.

I am encouraged that at the State level, Assemblymembers Laura Friedman and Miguel Santiago have just introduced AB1971, which would expand the definition of “gravely disabled”. As this measure is debated by the legislature, there will likely be a blistering attack from civil rights activists who believe that forcibly treating anyone will infringe on their civil rights.

It is time for the pendulum to swing back to the center. It is time for our representatives to recognize that the homeless man who was shot at the Jack-in the Box would have been better served if he had been forced into a treatment program. It is time for our representatives to recognize that the public also has a basic right to be able to walk in their community without fear that they will be attacked by someone who should be in treatment.

Voters approved Measures H and HHH to provide the funds to address our homeless crisis. If voters’ expectations are not met, then undoubtedly there will be political consequences. Providing housing and more funds for counseling and outreach will not do the job, unless the city and county also address getting the mentally-ill homeless into treatment. Congratulations to our Board of Supervisors for recognizing the problem and proposing a reasonable step, and thanks to Assemblymembers Friedman and Santiago for moving this forward.

Let’s hope the State legislature has the courage to adopt AB1971 and change the way the State defines “grave disabilities” to protect both the public and our homeless population. Solving a crisis today should not require relying on an outdated definition written over 50 years ago!


Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 25 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

Leadership Needed to Resolve a Real Crisis

This past week, the Hollywood Chamber had meetings with two of our L.A. City Councilmembers – first with Curren Price who chairs the City’s Economic Development Committee, and then our board met with newly-elected 4th District Councilmember David Ryu.

In both meetings, the issue which quickly rose to the top was the rapidly escalating number of homeless encampments throughout Hollywood. I can tell you that people are alarmed at what is happening on public sidewalks, along the freeway and even on private property. Your Chamber has been active in lobbying for action, through meetings as well as letters to our public officials.

A recent count by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) found that the number of encampments on Hollywood streets has jumped by 54 percent to 184 since the last count in 2013. Countywide, LAHSA found that there was an 84 percent increase.

Who are these newly homeless in Hollywood? The Hollywood Entertainment District Security Patrols has surveyed many of the newly-arrived homeless and found that most of them are not from the Los Angeles area. A large number are from out of state and drawn to Hollywood. The majority are young.  Even if the City offered them housing, they would decline. They just want to hang out. For further information on this, read a column by Hollywood Property Owners Executive Director Kerry Morrison:

Many of them are also on drugs and alcohol and there is an increasing incidence of mental illness and violent behavior. When I was walking to a meeting last week, one of them appealed to me for a contribution so he could do “alcohol research”. At least he was honest!

Hollywood has done a lot to assist our homeless population. There is a consensus here that we need to treat legitimately homeless individuals humanely. Since 2010, the Hollywood 4WRD Coalition has found housing for 440 of those on our streets. The goal has been to find permanent supportive housing for all of our local homeless. That goal has been blown out of the water with the current situation. I have been in Hollywood for 23 years, and have never seen it so bad.

What does the current crisis mean for Hollywood?  It means that residents do not feel safe in their own neighborhoods. It means that employees are afraid to walk to their cars after work. Developers of multi-million dollar office buildings are concerned that businesses won’t want to locate in Hollywood when they see the encampments outside their doors. This is a quality of life issue that impacts everyone.

Do we see these same problems in nearby cities such as West Hollywood, Burbank, Pasadena or Glendale? The answer is “no”. The usual explanation that we receive is that Los Angeles is so large that it is the prime target of lawsuits challenging homeless enforcement, and so the City’s hands are tied.

I recognize that is indeed a problem, but we are looking to our elected officials for leadership, not explanations. This week the Los Angeles City Council is poised to declare a “State of Emergency” and to earmark $100-million for solutions. This is a good first step.

However, beyond that, a plan of action is needed. First, the City needs to differentiate between those who are truly homeless and in need of humane treatment, and those who want to “hang out” and choose a lifestyle of living on the sidewalks and moving from city to city. Separate approaches need to be crafted for both populations. The County and State need to be brought into the dialogue. If legislation is needed in Sacramento to address the challenges imposed by the courts, then now is the time to be speaking to our legislators – when they are beginning to put together their legislative priorities for 2016. The City should be researching what other cities faced with similar issues have done.

The time for inaction is over. We don’t want to accept this increase in people living on our streets as a new normal. We will be watching how our elected officials lead on this issue!

Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 23 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.