Homelessness has skyrocketed in the state of California. Los Angeles in particular has witnessed a massive increase. Between 2018-2019 the county’s homeless population grew by 16%. The city of Los Angeles experienced a similar phenomenon as its population grew at a slightly slower rate. The thousands of new people calling the streets their home has far surpassed the city’s sanitary capabilities. The sheer amount of people now eating and defecating in the California heat has allowed previously rare diseases to proliferate. It has reached the point where there is a real threat of a bubonic plague outbreak occurring in Los Angeles.
All politicians agree that the best way to combat the threat is by solving the homelessness problem. Some politicians have blamed Los Angeles county’s notoriously high real estate prices as the source of the crisis. While others claim that the homeless population is a direct consequence of California’s failed policies on managing the mentally ill and drug-addicted. There have been many reports such as the one commissioned by the National Coalition for the Homeless that supports the latter group’s claim. The National Coalition for the Homeless study found that 64% of the homeless population is dependent on some inebriating substance. The same report concludes that “[s]ubstance abuse often leads to homelessness.”
Housing and Urban Development conducted a similar study pertaining to homelessness and found that 45% of the homeless population in America possesses some degree of mental illness.
The increased homeless population has caused an influx of trash and feces on the streets of LA. According to a study by Reform California, this has allowed for the state’s rat population to flourish, which, in turn, has lead to an increased risk of rodent-borne disease.
Reform California says that there have been 124 confirmed cases of Typhus in Los Angeles County. Typhus has not been the only medieval disease to reappear. The bubonic plague — the same one that wiped out a third of Europe over 600 years ago — could be present in LA today, according to The New York Post. The Bubonic plague has been nearly non-existent in LA with only three cases of it in the past 40 years, but experts believe that there could already be plague victims present in the city.
The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has admitted that the state has a problem. “Our homeless crisis has increasingly become a public health crisis … And now, typhus [is] in Los Angeles. Typhus. That’s a medieval disease. In California. In 2019,” he said. He is expected to sign AB-932 which is a bill to produce more shelters for homeless people. The legislative piece recently passed the state senate, but how much it will help address the complex problem remains to be seen.