Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

LAX Becomes Home For the Homeless, as Prop 47 Takes It's Toll on the Nation's Busiest Airport

Los Angeles International Airport is home to 200 homeless people, many of them mentally ill

No one is sure when he arrived or where he is from. But the middle aged homeless man in Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, talks almost incessantly to an imaginary person.

Early one morning last week, he punctuated his talk to an imaginary presence by raising his voice. "I'm a doctor? I'm a doctor! ha haha," he exclaimed over and over again, laughing at his own not so private joke.

Nearby is a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf outlet, selling $5 cups of coffee and $10 sandwiches to hurried travelers. Women who work there told me, that they have been instructed to simply allow homeless people to take food. "If we call the airport police, they won't do anything," says one. "They might detain them for a couple hours, but then they let them go. Our managers have told us, don't create a scene or a confrontation. Just let them take a sandwich, or something else, and leave. It's just easier all around.

"On any given night, up to 130 homeless people are camping out in the terminals at Los Angeles International Airport, according to an internal LAX document obtained by NBC4 News" that outlet tweeted on December 12, 2019. The airport employees I spoke to say that is a low end estimate, and that the number is above 200.

After all, LAX like other airports offers buildings where you can escape the heat or cold and benches to sit on. Travelers might easily take pity on a homeless person, while rushing to make their flights.

There are places to buy (or pilfer) food, even unclaimed baggage from time to time, to rustle through. Most people there are just passing through and won't mind or even notice you too much. It all makes sense.

Some think that the homeless threaten travelers with disease, aggressive panhandling, or mental instability. Others think it's not exactly the first image of LA in this post Prop 47 State, that we want to present to visitors from around the world.

Proposition 47 made victimless crimes harder to enforce in California. Specifically, petty theft is no longer punishable by imprisonment. A perpetrator receives a citation, and must appear in court on a misdemeanor violation. But he is free to go soon after the offense.

It will probably not surprise you to learn that homeless people do not appear in Court later. In effect, the State decriminalized petty theft, the theft of less than $950. Lunch costs much less than that, even at LAX.


Reader Comments(2)

Glenn writes:

Enforcing support methods for mentally ill will require money and, for many, the loss of their freedom. G

TML writes:

It is inhumane to leave the mentally ill and less fortunate to sleep in public places and on the streets. It's disgusting. When it comes to the homeless, it's clear that our governments are letting everybody down.