Ali M. Meghdadi
English 39C/ Section 33321
February 8, 2015
The Complications of Urbanization
Urbanization, the result of the Industrial Revolution, transitioned America from a place of
agriculture into factories. Towns and cities expanded to accommodate the growing influx of
migrants from rural areas who sought employment opportunities and a higher standard of living.
The population increase led to a string of consequent events. Competition for limited resources
caused an increase in unemployment. The unemployed fell into poverty and could no longer
afford the rising cost of living, resulting in a high rate of homelessness.
Homelessness has caused
problems for many cities such as Los
Angeles. Los Angeles Police
Department witnessed police cars from
at least four out-of-town police
departments drop off homeless people
on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
According to “Captain Andrew Smith,
who commands the downtown division, Figure 1: In this 2006 file photo provided by Los Angeles police, ambulance workers drop off a patient on skid row, even though police reports indicated he wanted to be taken to his residence at a Pasadena convalescent home (Los Angeles Police Department).
he and a partner saw two sheriff deputies drop off a mentally ill man in skid row after he was
released from the Central Jail” (Winston). Figure 1 shows a picture of an ambulance dropping off
an injured homeless patient with no insurance. Rather than helping the homeless, police and
hospitals evaded the problem by moving them to the streets of Los Angeles. The dumping of
homeless citizens was one reason why there was an increase in homeless people on the streets in
2005. Figure 2, by the 2013 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, shows that there has been an
increase in homeless citizens since 2009. That was an increase of 8,000 people within the next
two years. However, the transferring of homeless people to different regions is only a minor
problem. The major
problem is failure to
meet financial needs and
paying one’s bills. The
financial burden will
only continue to increase
because there is not
enough government and
There is not
enough help towards the homeless because of a predisposition towards homeless people. People
associate the idea of homelessness with the characteristics of laziness and hostility. Majority of
American would think it is their fault for being poor and because they are not resilient enough to
get out of their own situation, it is their fault. Just because people work hard, overcome struggles,
and succeed in surpassing the poverty line does not mean that those who are homeless did not
Figure 2: Comparison between the number of homeless and amount of streets and shelters counts.
work hard. It does not mean that they are lazy and did not overcome struggles. According to Paul
Toro, a psychology professor at Wayne State University, “Toro found that compared to other
countries, people who live in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom that have
more capitalistic economies and offer fewer social services, are more likely to believe personal
failings are the primary cause of homelessness and feel less compassion for homeless people”
(Figueroa). There are people in society who do not realize that these poor people are the same as
everyone else in the world but born in different environment or because of tragic events that
happened, not because they failed. If the community is more aware of the cause for their lack of
a job, education, or home, people might be more compassionate and thus, willing to lend a hand
instead of having these preconceived notions about homelessness. Another presumption people
have is that homeless people are something to be wary of and that the homeless should stay away
People fear homeless off the “presumptions that they are beggars, addicts, mentally ill or
violent” (Yook). Hailey Yook, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, noticed the
reaction of other students around homeless people. Homeless people are common around
Berkeley; one would see around five to fifteen homeless men and women with their belongings
while walking to class. This is what happened to Yook at UC Berkeley: “A woman who
appeared to be homeless sat down on a nearby bench with her cart of belongings. Almost every
student she sat by got up and moved to another spot farther away from her, as if she had terribly
wronged them in some way” (Yook). The social segregation towards homeless people will
invoke negative feelings and cause them to get outrage towards people who treat them like
criminals because everyone deserves equal and fair treatment. Eventually their anger might get
the best of them and provoke irrational action. “A homeless man, Dustin Kinnear, was sentenced
to prison for twelve years for fatally stabbing Christina Calderon in Hollywood” (Homeless).
Calderon took pictures of Kinnear panhandling for money and Kinnear asked for compensation
but Calderon refused and an argument formed between them that resulted in the stabbing of
Calderon in the torso. It is tough living on the street and tough panhandling for money, getting
rejected hundreds of times a day. Taking a picture of a person when they are homeless and
panhandling is socially and mentally humiliating. All these people want is fair treatment and
support. These presumptions are because of an illusion that people with homes are better than
homeless people. The idea that homeless individuals are lower in class is due to unfamiliarity.
This unfamiliarity makes homelessness harder to overcome especially, with the increase in
unemployment leading to more homeless individuals.
Before urbanization, unemployment was not recognized as a problem in rural areas and
thus homelessness was not a problem. This is because the rural town had everyone they needed
and made use of who they had, in order to sustain a decent lifestyle. Los Angeles is now the most
urbanized city in America and has the highest unemployment rate and living cost. It became
known as the “City in Decline” (Black). They are known as the “City in Decline” because job
availability has declined since the 1990s. That is when immigrants flood into Los Angeles as
shown in Figure 3. Figure 3 shows that in 2005 unemployment rates were low. From then on,
unemployment rate skyrocketed to almost three times the amount in six years. That spike on
Figure 3 correlates to Figure 2’s increase in homeless from 2009 and onward. As more people
became unemployed, more became homeless. The increase in unemployment was due to the fact
that “Los Angeles added a million residents between 1980 and 2010; however, during that same
time, the city lost 165,000 jobs” (Black). The loss of jobs and the influx of immigrants caused
unemployment to increase drastically as one can see in Figure 2 during the year 1990 when the
homeless count was 88,345.
: Describes the unemployment rate between Los Angeles and New York between the years 1990- 2014. The data was acquired from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Figure 4: The percentage of immigrants migrating
Figure 5: Immigrants based on origin migrating toward Los Angeles every 30 years. towards Los Angeles
The migration of immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Philippines, Guatemala, and
Korea to America, as depicted in Figure 5, has increased competition for jobs (Los Angeles, 1).
Comparing Figures 3 and 4 reveal a correlation between immigration rates and unemployment
Immigrants became a huge part of the total population of Los Angeles in the 1990’s. Figure 3
shows a ten percent increase in the number of immigrants since 1980. The increase in
immigrants and unchanging amount of housing results in not enough homes. Immigrants will
have to live in the slums or become
homeless or move elsewhere. The
migration of immigrants to other
parts of America will only result in
an increase in housing and
competition for jobs. Immigrants
migrating elsewhere are just
avoiding the problem for that
specific area. The immigrants in America will affect the opportunities for future kids and adults
to get a decent paying job unless government and community support is provided.
Poverty rates increased for young to middle-aged immigrants due to competition as
shown in Figure 6. The decrease in poverty was due to the fact that people were settling in and
because of the decline in immigrants moving in to Los Angeles. Despite the decrease in poverty
rates, “the number of workers in Los Angeles County who earn less than $25,000 has dropped
only slightly from 2006” (Connell). Poverty rate is not proportional to income rate. However,
when poverty increases, living expenses increase. Los Angeles Times writer Rich Connell
illustrates the lifestyle of Brigitte Erickson in order to represent the economic turnover in 2008.
Figure 6: Poverty rates from the year 1970-2010 separated by age.
Erickson lives a comfortable lifestyle; she goes out to eat, has a nice apartment, and enjoys other
entertainment. However, in 2008 “a big rent increase forced Erickson to move out of her Arcadia
apartment, and the rising cost of gas and other consumer goods impelled her to go out less often”
(Connell). In Figure 6, the slight increase in poverty rates in 2008 results in Erickson losing her
home. With income not increasing and with the increasing living expenses and declining of jobs,
citizens of Los Angeles need multiple jobs just to pay their rent.
As Los Angeles became urbanized, living expenses increased. The rent burden went from
30 percent to 60
percent within three
decades as shown in
Figure 7. This is
significant to not
only Los Angles but
America as well.
burden went from 25 percent to 50 percent within the same timeframe and it is continuing to
increase. According to the trend, there will be an increase in rent burden from five to ten percent
within the next decade. The drastic increase in rent is causing the increase in rent burden. Los
Angeles’ rent control prevents the financial incentive of building more apartments. This means
that there will be more people but no new apartments. The high competition for homes raises the
prices of housing. Rent control is a law that limits the amount a landlord can raise rent. However,
rent control does not keep rent cost low. Rent has risen “25 percent between the year 2000 and
2012 in Los Angeles” (LA Rent) and that contributed to the spike in rent burden seen in Figure
Figure 7: United States and Los Angeles rent burden percentage as time pass.
7. The competition will drive the prices up, creating risks of growth in homelessness and
overpopulation. “A person living in rent controlled units pays an average of $1612 a month” (LA
Rent). That is 19,344 dollars a year solely for rent. Over 30 percent of the full time workers
cannot afford that kind of money solely on rent. Most immigrants work multiple low paying
jobs. This is because business advocates hiring hard-working, low-cost, illegal worker. “If one
goes to a restaurant in a predominantly white or black community, they will see a
disproportionate number of middle-aged Latinos working” (Reyes). Jobs that are below
minimum wage at 40 hours a week will get the person 320 dollars without tax reduction. A
month of working yield 1,280 dollars, which alone is not enough to pay the average, unsanitary
apartments in Los Angeles. Edgar, a 21-year-old Latino immigrant said, “I work really hard, and
I only get $8. I live with my wife; we barely make enough to pay rent” (Kim). As time passes,
the rent burden will only increase and because of urbanization, millions of immigrants will come
to America and compete for resources such as jobs. Cheaper labor will make it more difficult for
future Americans to get a job.
The risk of urbanization is whether we have enough opportunities and resources for the
many immigrants coming to America. If there are not enough resources such as jobs or homes,
both immigrants and Americans will be living a life of poverty. With not enough programs and
support, it is nearly impossible to recover. Without jobs, not everyone can afford basic human
needs. A recession can and has happen in America causing many Americans to lose their jobs
and became homeless. It is urgent that there will be programs and support to fight against
poverty because when living a life in poverty, one is not really living. It is possible to stop
poverty but in order to do so; we need to support each other.
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