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Nguyen 1 Alex Nguyen Ali M. Meghdadi English 39C/ Section 33321 February 8, 2015 The Complications of Urbanization
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Nguyen 1

Alex Nguyen

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).

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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

community support.

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.

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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

from non-homeless.

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

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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.

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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.

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Figure 4: The percentage of immigrants migrating

Figure 5: Immigrants based on origin migrating toward Los Angeles every 30 years. towards Los Angeles

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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.

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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.

America’s rent

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.

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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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