I explored topics surrounding toxic homelessness in Southern California. I investigated discrepancies in the total number of homeless people versus how many shelter beds are available nightly, as well as, homeless stigmas and the injustices that result. The views held by the general public on who is homeless and why likely holds direct correlation with justice programs, homeless assistance, and the lack thereof. I worked with a homeless shelter in Canterbury, England and trained to be a mentor to those who have found housing in an effort to help them maintain it. This particular toxicity is important because homelessness, especially in cities, is visible every day and people have their own varied opinions on it. Politically, homelessness is greatly affected by the NIMBY (not in my back yard) movement where people have intentions of helping, but no one wants the solution to be noticeable in their backyard (or neighborhood). I used one photograph and one created image to help relay some of the toxic conditions of homelessness in Southern California.
Benches, designed similar to this one, are found all over Southern California to try to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them. Several people who are homeless still manage to find a way to sleep on the benches whether that means sleeping sitting up or piling old dirty blankets or clothing up till it works; others opt for folded up cardboard on the ground. There is only one shelter bed available per four of the estimated 55,000 homeless people in LA; the rest of the homeless population takes to sleeping in cars, campers, tents, doorways, or benches on a nightly basis. Would you want to compete for a bed to sleep in every night? This bench proudly boasts, "City of Hermosa Beach." Labeling this divided bench seems to relay, “as a city, we do not want homeless people to feel comfortable sleeping here.”
I chose this photo because this bench design seems to beg ethical questions. Who should have access to these benches and for what purposes? What message is being sent by the city/cities which incorporate these? I think it is important to start a conversation on whether these practices by cities are appropriate. The middle divider on the benches to prevent sleeping further portrays the NIMBY (not in my backyard) movement. We know homeless people need somewhere to sleep, but we do not want that to happen where we eat, shop, or visit regularly. This simple addition to a bench shows the lack of care and support for our homeless population and relays the toxic reality that LA's homeless people deal with on a daily basis.
Does hard work actually result in the fruition of the American Dream? Or might your hard work equally result in homelessness? Los Angeles has a growing homeless population that is easily accepted by onlookers with excuses such as, “this is what happens if you become addicted to drugs or alcohol.” The truth is that the top reasons for homelessness are not the fault of the individuals, but instead caused by outside factors such as lack of affordable housing, lack of jobs, and lack of resources. The inaccurate stigmas surrounding homelessness further justify the NIMBY movement, allowing people to justify and make excuses for not helping out their fellow humans.
I used the juxtaposition of the Wikipedia definition for the American Dream next to the top three reasons for homelessness to relay that homelessness can just as equally result from hard work because the reasons for homelessness are not addiction or laziness, instead they are outside factors. Many Californians are living paycheck to paycheck and are at risk of ending up homeless despite their best efforts. This image was created to inspire us to look at and reevaluate the structural and political issues that are putting Americans, even those who are considered hard workers, in this inhumane situation.