Ongoing homeless sweeps triggered by the upcoming Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, have outraged homeless and housing justice activists. Not only are the sweeps another example of politicians trying to hide the homelessness crisis from public view, but they also underline how elected officials have refused to urgently and substantively address the unfolding humanitarian emergency.
What’s at stake: For years, hundreds of unhoused individuals have died annually on the streets of Los Angeles County, where Inglewood and the city of Los Angeles are located. Recently, UCLA researchers found that nearly 1,500 unhoused residents in the L.A. area died during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, senior citizens, families, and students have had their lives turned upside down by homelessness, which has been fueled by skyrocketing rents and excessive rent increases that lower-income and working-class residents can’t pay.
Response by government: L.A.-area activists have long urged elected officials to address the worsening homelessness crisis as a humanitarian emergency. Politicians, however, have repeatedly ignored that call to action. Elected officials have failed to quickly build more low-income and homeless housing, and are still utilizing homeless sweeps – an outdated policy that does nothing to fix the root causes of homelessness. In the city of Los Angeles, for example, a 2016 bond measure was supposed to fund 10,000 new units of homeless housing. By 2020, only 361 units had been built.
What activists are saying: When news broke about the sweeps, activists sounded off. It was an obvious, and crass, attempt to hide the homelessness crisis from tourists and VIPs who are visiting L.A. to attend the Super Bowl, which takes place on February 13.
- “No one wants to take responsibility for what is happening,” Annie Powers, an organizer with NOlympics LA, told The Guardian. “We see this time and time again – with sports capitalism, celebrations or other big events like the Super Bowl or Olympics, the city tries to make the city look better for investors coming from out of town. So they’re very encouraged to try to disappear the poor from the streets.”
- “Sporting events should not be used to violate human rights,” tweeted Leilani Farha, a former United Nations special rapporteur and global director of The Shift. “NFL take a knee on this one. California State Transportation Authority forcibly evicts homeless camp near Super Bowl contrary to international human right law.”
- “I think it’s all about appearances,” homeless advocate Madeline Devillers told KTLA. “There’s no equivalent push to get them in housing… It’s just ‘get out.’”
Housing Is A Human Right’s take: “Housing Is A Human Right has repeatedly demanded that politicians must urgently address the homelessness crisis,” says Susan Shannon, the policy director of HHR. “They must stop pushing trickle-down housing policies and instead implement the ‘3 Ps’: protect tenants, preserve communities, and produce affordable housing. They can follow the lead of our sister organization, Healthy Housing Foundation, which has built nearly 1,200 units of low-income and homeless housing in four years, by utilizing the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, such as old hotels or unused government buildings like an empty firehouse. We can avoid homeless sweeps, help people, and get results, but only if politicians have the will to do it.”