Our View: Identifying the virus' real targets
Our View

Our View: Identifying the virus' real targets

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They call it the City of Angels, but for 60,000 or so homeless people, Los Angeles is anything but angelic.

Nor is there much joy for the other 14 million people living in the L.A. Basin who must step carefully around the region’s huge homeless population.

The personal finance website WalletHub has completed a comprehensive study of populations vulnerable to COVID-19 throughout the United States — because just about everything these days is linked to the coronavirus in one way or another — and California comes out pretty well compared to the other states and regions surveyed.

Except in one category, and based on the opening of this editorial, you’ve probably guessed which category. More about that in a moment.

When it comes to percentage of the population 65 and older most vulnerable to COVID-19, California is near the bottom, which is good. We’re even better off when it comes to percentage of population diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The same is true for percentage of the population receiving jobless benefits.

But when it comes to the share of unsheltered homeless people, California is No.1, and that’s not the best; it’s the worst.

The main causes of homelessness among Californians generally are a lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, mental illness and the shortage of mental-health services, substance abuse and its lack of services.

Actually, researchers probably didn’t need to go much further than housing costs to pinpoint the true demon in California’s homeless crisis. Those of us living on the Central Coast know all about the lack of affordable housing, a problem that has plagued this region for decades — and for which there have been a wide range of proposed remedies, but no viable solutions over all those years.

Santa Barbara County’s homeless situation is nothing like L.A.’s, but for a county this size, it is significant. The most recent Point-in-Time homeless survey counted 1,897 people, a slight increase over the previous survey period.

Homelessness became even more of an issue earlier this year when COVID-19 crashed the scene. Those of us sheltering at home, sleeping in our own beds and raiding our own refrigerators late at night have no concept of what it must be like for those whose only shelter are the remnants of cast-off cardboard boxes, under bridges, in riverbeds and bushes.

Other states ranked much worse in WalletHub’s survey, but for different reasons. Poverty, obesity and serious health problems plague states such as most-vulnerable West Virginia and other Southern states, which raises the vulnerability factor almost exponentially. In that regard, Californians are in far better shape, at least from a physical health perspective.

The conflict now is between flat-lining the coronavirus and re-energizing the nation’s economy. The federal government is saying one thing, the nation’s health professionals are saying quite the opposite. It’s a moral question that has crossed over the line to become political, this being only a few months away from a presidential election.

That is why we are putting so much time and effort into bringing you facts, from both ends of the political spectrum. Our stories about COVID-19’s progress on the Central Coast are designed to keep you fully informed, so that when the time comes for an economic rebirth, you will be able to make the best decisions for you and your family.

We are giving you the information, without political spin, at a time when we know our readers appreciate having access to the latest news and numbers.

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