Living with Housing Insecurity
Illustrations By:Hillary Wilson
Warning: the following content includes descriptions of physical violence.
This is the story of a 43 year old man who suffers from mental illness and housing insecurity. He has a family who loves him and he dreams of being an actor.
The man’s day starts, like so many other days, when he wakes up in his tent on Skid Row. But one of his neighbors accuses him of robbery. The police arrive to investigate.
The median salary of two police officers who were hired to handle the deluge of daily calls––some calls actually needing police intervention but many, many more calls that do not. Source
He leaves his tent to speak with the officers. He is determined to get his point across—although he never will. “Let me express myself. Let me express myself,” he tells the officers over and over.
One officer replies, “We’re going to do things my way. You’re going to get tased. Do you understand?”
The man is standing with his hands down by his sides and speaking calmly with the officers.
“This taser is gonna hurt.” The officer taunts him.
The man points his index finger at the officer in frustration. “You don’t let me express myself.”
“Get up against the wall sir.” An officer steps towards him and points a taser.
The average cost to equip two police officers. Source
Exasperated, the man throws his hands in the air. “Listen. Go ahead and tase me.”
“Don’t walk up on me,” the officer shouts.
The man hasn’t taken any steps towards the officer. He hasn’t moved his feet at all. Frustrated, he crawls back into his tent.
The officers bark warnings about tasing. The man tries to get them to listen instead of threaten. They won’t.
“Leave me alone,” the man says.
Get his ass! Get him!
The officers don’t leave him alone. They yank the tent open.
“You gotta step outside.”
The man is on his knees and refuses to move.
“You’re gonna get tased. Put your hands up!”
The man begins to stand, and they tase him.
He was calm. He had complied and answered their questions. He offered to explain himself. He was unarmed. He was threatening no one. And they tased him anyway.
He spins around and around, flailing his arms in response to the jolts from the tasers.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground!”
His body spins and spins.
“Get his ass! Get him!”
The officers speak as if he is not a human being.
The police knock him to the ground and continue to tase him. Two officers kneel on his chest and begin to punch him. His body thrashes back and forth.
“Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” the officers shout.
Suddenly, a rookie officer screams, “He’s got my gun! He’s got my gun!”
Shots ring out. The police fire a total of six shots at him, four of which prove fatal.
“Stop moving! Stop resisting!” The officers shout at him after they have shot him multiple times.
But, did he ever have the gun?
The bystander and body cam videos tell a different story. According to that footage, the man only reached towards the officer’s waistband, not his gun.
In fact, the rookie officer’s gun was still in the holster after the shooting stopped.
The man’s family files a civil lawsuit against the city of LA, the LAPD, the police chief, and the officers involved. The officers are found liable in a civil suit and the family reaches a $1.95 million settlement with the city. His dreams of becoming an actor are never realized. His family mourns his loss.
Cost to the city police department after a civil suit found the officers at fault. Source
He could still be alive today if we invested differently.
Total cost of police
A plan to reallocate.
These are nonviolent alternatives to policing that could have been used in this scenario. These alternatives together are still less than the cost of this single story’s police intervention.
Mental Health First Responders$610K
Cost of 10 workers on staff
Social workers, therapists, and mental health experts don’t need to be end-of-the-line resources—they can also be first responders. When unarmed, trained experts can respond to health episodes, de-escalate, and more quickly determine the care that is needed. Some communities have limited resources, but may not make them available to everyone. Source
Unhoused Liaison and Outreach$564K
Cost of 3 teams
People facing housing insecurity need more support than just singular, targeted responses. They may need things like shelter for a night, a couple of hot meals, or a few new articles of clothing.
Skilled teams can build relationships proactively, provide on-going practical support through helpful information and referrals, and make in-depth assessments about the most vulnerable for better case management. These teams can include an outreach worker, case manager, and supervisor. Source
Supportive Housing Programs$825.6K
Cost of 192 unhoused people in the program
Affordable housing assistance combined with employment assistance, community health care, and services to build independence and life skills is an effective connected support network. Supportive Housing programs helped decrease the number of chronically unhoused individuals by 30% since 2007. Source
Not only that, these programs pay for themselves by decreasing the number of days people spend in jail, in shelters, and at hospitals. That means more public funds are available to invest back in supportive housing programs or other community needs. Researchers concluded that the average public costs for supportive housing was as little as $12 per day. Source
Imagine what could have been
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