Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Palmdale, CA, Home of NASA’s Space Shuttle, Vows Not to Be L.A.’s Dump For Homeless

Located nearly 70 miles northeast from downtown Los Angeles, in the arid Antelope Valley, the high desert city of Palmdale is where the striking silhouettes of giant Yucca plants known as Joshua trees dominate the dawn and sunset skylines and Karen Bass, the newly-installed mayor of Los Angeles, has reportedly noted on more than one occasion there’s enough space to resettle the thousands of homeless squatting — figuratively and literally — along the streets and in other public spaces of the so-called City of Angels.

Last May, then-United States Congresswoman Bass said in a Los Angeles Times interview during her mayoral campaign that she envisioned clinics for people with mental illness in the county. She then suggested, “There’s a big chunk of land in Palmdale and maybe we could create a village out there.”

As such, members of the Palmdale City Council have moved to send an emphatic “No!” to Bass.

Earlier this month, the panel unanimously voted for a resolution declaring opposition to the city of Los Angeles using emergency powers to create a homeless village and end up using Palmdale — where the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or, NASA, built the Space Shuttle — and surrounding communities as a homeless dumping ground.

The resolution is “very clear, very concise. It makes the point known without declaring war on the city of Los Angeles,” Palmdale City Councilwoman Andrea Alarcon,” said in a report by the California Globe.

One of the first actions Bass took when she became mayor of Los Angeles was to declare an emergency on homelessness. That was soon followed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which also declared a homelessness emergency, and part of the county declaration requires the creation of more licensed shelter beds as well as temporary permanent housing.

Bass released a statement after the emergency declaration by the county board, stating, “The people of Los Angeles deserve that we urgently and immediately take every possible action to bring unhoused Angelenos indoors, and this declaration will enable us to move faster and unlock every tool possible.”

The most recent homeless count in 2022 showed approximately 42,000 homeless people in the city of Los Angeles and more than 69,000 in the county.

Lancaster, Antelope Valley’s other large city and Palmdale’s adjacent neighbor, weeks before passed its own resolution protesting any L.A. efforts to move homeless into the area.

The Lancaster City Council teamed up with Mayor R. Rex Parris to declare its own state of emergency against what city leaders also believed were Bass’ plan to deliver her city’s homeless to the Antelope Valley.

“She just announced the invasion,” said Perris. “That’s what it is, it’s an invasion…I strongly oppose Mayor Bass’ plan to move the L.A. homeless population to a village in the Antelope Valley. This kind of inhumane and degrading treatment of individuals who are already struggling is unacceptable and must be stopped.

“How can you claim that your city is a sanctuary city while sending your own citizens away? Instead of isolating and ostracizing people who are homeless, we should be providing them with the support and resources they need to get back on their feet. We must…work towards a more compassionate and effective solution to homelessness,” he said.

Bass has promised to house 15,000 homeless in her first year as mayor — and that’s led to concern across the Antelope Valley, which comprises several small communities along with Palmdale and Lancaster.

The race to find shelters for L.A. homeless quickly would overwhelm community services, if indeed Bass pursues her idea for clinics in the high desert.

“We just aren’t meant to handle that high number of unhoused people, not to mention the medical and fiscal support that comes with it,” Nelson Root, an Antelope Valley business owner who has been contracted in the past to provide services for unhoused individuals, told the Globe. “You know many would leave the area she proposed, and guess where they would go? Lancaster. Palmdale. Tehachapi. Mojave. Not LA. When [Bass] said that, a lot of people here were angry. I even had someone who bought from me before, when they worked as a homeless volunteer. She said ‘If she’s mayor and wants the city to get rid of them, why doesn’t she just offer them bus tickets to anywhere in the country? Or send them all to other cities?’ The issue is this big.”

Antelope Valley residents apparently waited until the mayoral election in November, hoping billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso would win L.A.’s mayorship and block such plans, along with the homeless state of emergency, from gaining traction. However, Bass’ election win and then her city council’s support of the homeless state of emergency has left  Antelope Valley residents fearing for their communities.

“If a huge homeless housing area is placed here, what do you think will happen with crime? With Safety? With how far our resources will be stretched?” asked James Hideki, a Lancaster resident who visited his city hall City Hall several times this week in favor of Lancaster’s state of emergency. “But more to that is that California has a history of moving large numbers of people of a certain demographic to other areas of the state they don’t want to go. My wife is 1/8th Native American and I’m half Japanese. That should just speak for itself.

“You can’t just corral people, even under volunteer circumstances, and expect them to stay…It’s not being said, but as much as L.A. wants the problem to be humanely solved, a lot of this is also trying to solve the city’s problems before the Olympics in 2028,” Hideki continued. “The homeless crisis doesn’t look good for a city on the world stage and causes many problems for events and transit, so they’re looking at options to move them out of sight. Hopefully this state of emergency will help deter from the problem being moved here.”

Bass is reportedly planning to unveil the details of all her plans for the homeless situation soon.