When you’re taking a stroll around Los Angeles, it’s not unusual to see someone laying down on the sidewalk. Maybe when you pass them you ask yourself if they’re okay, or maybe even wonder if they’re alive. The 680th homeless man to die in LA was found lying like that on a piece of cardboard at the intersection of Sepulveda and Massachusetts Avenue. L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote about him, and the record setting amount of homeless deaths in the city.
“We're ahead of last year's pace when we topped 900 homeless deaths,” Lopez says. After looking at the data of the people who have died on LA’s streets this year, he determined that about 83% of them are men with an average age of 51. The life expectancy in Los Angeles County is 80, which means that their life expectancies were cut short by almost 30 years.
Lopez wanted to find out more about the man who spent his last moments resting in that West LA intersection.
“I managed without the coroner's office to get in touch with that man's wife,” he told KCRW. “They got married in 1983 in Bakersfield and they started out with a pretty normal life. Then he developed mental issues. He'd be gone for long stretches, he'd come back, he'd be delusional, he'd leave again. So she has all these years, decades, hoped that he would get help and hoped that he would come home.”
Lopez says that the issue of homelessness is not unique to Los Angeles, and finding the solutions are a long, arduous process.
“I think it speaks to bigger problems it speaks to an economy that's not working for everybody. It speaks to a health care system that doesn't work for everybody it speaks to the spread of drugs and addiction and problems in our schools and our criminal justice system and foster care system. I hate to say this but I think that we're going to be living with this for a long time.”