Housing Is A Human Right, AHF’s housing justice department, denounced L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s (R, 5th District) nominee to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commission
AHF and its housing advocacy arm, Housing Is A Human Right (HHR), tonight hailed the withdrawal of the nomination of former ‘Loveline’ radio talk show host Dr. Drew Pinsky to a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) committee. The withdrawal was announced in a statement released earlier this evening by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger (R, 5th District), whose nomination of Pinsky to the panel last week drew widespread outrage and criticism from homeless advocates and organizations.
"The nomination of a talk show celebrity to a LAHSA panel at a time when the homelessness crisis here is spiraling out of control, was simply offensive," said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. "This is the governing body of homeless services, including housing for the homeless, in the County. Millions of struggling Angelenos are looking to LAHSA for leadership, and this was the best they had to offer? It was the right move to pull the nomination."
Housing Is A Human Right believes that Dr. Drew’s opinions on the homelessness crisis reveal a perspective that is ignorant and ill-informed. In a Q&A with Contagion in 2019, Drew claimed, "the vast majority of people on the streets—their condition makes them unwilling or unwanting to go indoors. So, even when they correct the housing issue, they’re still going to have the same problem on the streets."
These comments completely ignore the data-backed leading issues driving people into homelessness—namely, affordability and job loss. It is not a coincidence that a city where residents are spending an average of 47% of their income on rent also has a homelessness crisis. This is a housing affordability crisis.
AHF is in good company; the West Valley People’s Alliance released a coalition letter April 18th in opposition. The letter laid out the innumerable flaws with this nomination, and summarized:
"Dr. Drew reinforces the idea that homelessness is caused by either substance use or mental illness. LA County’s data makes it clear that there are many factors and populations to consider including structural racism, LGBTQIA+ safety, the foster care system, domestic violence, housing cost, and incarceration. He is not using a data-informed or research-backed approach to understand what’s going on in our community."
Even the L.A. Times Editorial Board weighed in, calling Dr. Drew Pinsky "the wrong choice".
"We homeless are disgusted that Supervisor Barger would be horrifically pandering to a failed, disgraced and utterly reprehensible, smirking media celebrity, rather than an actual expert on homelessness—someone who knows how to advocate for solutions—and not just posture, as this disgraced and discredited ‘Dr.’ clearly has," said unhoused Los Angeles resident David Busch-Lilly, who most recently lived at the Echo Park Lake encampment. When he refused to leave the park during the recent police clearance of the encampment, he was handcuffed with plastic ties, brought to the police station, processed, and released. Busch-Lilly was one of two unhoused people who stayed at Echo Park Lake that were arrested.
"Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis that requires our most experienced advocates working on solutions at the highest level. To nominate a celebrity doctor with old-fashioned draconian ideas about our unhoused community to a board whose primary responsibility is to alleviate homelessness was an insult to the residents of the County of Los Angeles," said Susie Shannon, policy director for Housing Is A Human Right, AHF’s housing advocacy arm.
"Eleven national organizations and thirteen local organizations working in homelessness across the county stated (WVPA letter) that Dr. Drew was the wrong choice," said Kim Olsen, of the West Valley People’s Alliance. "Dr. Drew is a celebrity doctor who does not live in LA and regularly makes statements on issues around homelessness without expertise, information or experience. We have seen how dangerous this approach can be when he declared that Covid-19 was ‘way less serious than influenza.’ Why would we even have considered endangering our unhoused folks in this way?"
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