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How the 2028 Olympics may motivate the city to help LA's homeless

Critics of the decision to hold the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles are worried about how the event could affect the city's homeless population.
Critics of the decision to hold the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles are worried about how the event could affect the city's homeless population.
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Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city leaders have been hailing their deal to bring the 2028 Summer Olympics to LA, but others are skeptical. Critics are concerned about the toll the Olympics might take on traffic and the impact on LA’s homeless.

LA recently passed two measures, Measure H and Measure HHH, that together will funnel billions of dollars to combat homelessness over the next decade. But will that money be enough to fix the issue by the year 2028?

Andy Bales, the CEO of Union Rescue Mission, told KPCC’s Alex Cohen about the challenges the city may face in the next 11 years. Below are some highlights from that conversation.

On the current state of homeless in LA 

I'm hoping against hope that it will not be like it is now 11 years from now. I'm hoping we will become like other cities that does not allow one precious human being to be out on the street. We need shelters and we need places for people to eat and we need facilities for showers and restrooms and we need it now. We are so far behind... If we want 2028 to look different than it looks now, we need to take immediate action. If it looks worse in LA than it looks now, I think we may lose the invitation because who will want to come and see the chaos that is LA if we don't address homelessness?

On what needs to happen between now and 2028

Let's take some of that [Olympics funding] and create emergency and transitional and long-term support for people. We have 9 working public toilets for 2,000 people on the streets of Skid Row. We're 184 toilets shy of being on par with a UN refugee camp. We need both the long-term approach but we also need in my opinion, an emergency Red Cross-like response to what I call an unnatural event of epic proportions.

On the motivation the Olympics provides

The nice thing about 2028 is that it gives us time to make this the city we want to be. We can live up to our name, the City of Angels, if we take care of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing the devastation of homelessness on the streets.

This interview has been edited for clarity. Click on the audio above to hear the entire interview.