The city of Los Angeles is struggling with an increase in its homelessness, in part because of California's particular distinction among other states with large prison populations: It releases people from prison without requiring them to have places to live, NBC News reports. Since 2019, at least 36,400 inmates have been released from California state prisons without fixed addresses, a quarter of whom were sent to Los Angeles County. This poses an issue as Los Angeles County probation officers, who are tasked with monitoring low-level felons released from prison, are already struggling with dwindling staffing, enormous caseloads, and being assaulted on the job. “The manpower and resources aren’t there,” said Ralph Diaz, who ran California’s prison system from September 2018 to October 2020. “I don’t see how it’s going to improve without some major intervention.” According to the latest tally by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the rise in the number of homeless people can be attributed to multiple factors, including the pandemic, which as a result forced prisons to push people out faster and often without proper resources for reentry to society.
Homeless people recently released from prison also leave with the odds stacked against them as some public housing programs bar people convicted of certain felonies. Once released former inmates are left on their own, many struggling with illiteracy, they must figure out how to apply for housing, use a smartphone, or get online. “The biggest problem is that there is no continuum of care,” said Mara Taylor, the founder of Going Out by Going In, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group of former inmates who help recently released felons navigate life. However, Terri Hardy, a spokesperson for the corrections department, said prisons do offer an array of classes, from basic reading to college level, as well as job training to help prepare inmates to find employment when they are released. More than $84 million, as of last year, was spent on housing and support programs for people on parole that can last six to 15 months. "While we understand how important it is to deal with this initial homeless issue right now, we are definitely working on ways to work on this issue in a long-term, more systemic way,” Hardy said. “We have extended the runway within the institutions. We are training them and giving them more ground and preparing them while they are incarcerated.”