Two Major Issues
*Homeless Encampments and Antiquated Power Grids/ Transmission Lines*
One Common Theme
*Igniting Wildfires* 

In order to make this world a better place, I would focus efforts on my city and state, addressing two disparate items – the deplorable homeless crisis and the dangerously antiquated electrical power grids and lines – both of which have caused catastrophic wildfires bringing Los Angeles and California to its knees.

The 5th largest World economy, California, now has the distinction of having the largest homeless population in the United States and reliance on our outdated electrical transmission lines, sparked a fire last year which led to one of the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history forcing a bankruptcy filing for the largest utility company.

The size and scope of these issues will not be resolved with a “band-aid approach.” We need to understand systemic causes. With the power companies, state and local investigations have concluded, failures from power transmission lines have ignited deadly wildfires. The causes have been identified and the solution is a monstrous upgrading of the power grids and transmission lines throughout the state. The homeless problem and its systemic roots, considering the various categories and age groups, are not that easy to diagnose as there is a myriad of issues that may lead to homelessness.

Homeless encampments are everywhere – under freeway overpasses, in front or behind stores and businesses, along dry riverbeds and in the hillsides. Cities do periodic sweeps which will temporarily displace the homeless encampments. However, most will return to the same areas within a couple of weeks.  The utility companies’ attempts to prevent their equipment from sparking massive wildfires have been pre-emptive shutdowns of transmission lines leading to massive blackouts during the fall Santa Ana wind conditions. However, these Santa Ana wind events are not a new phenomenon for California and while other states have modernized their equipment and transmission lines to avoid failure during high winds, California prefers “to remain in the dark.”

While the state leads the country with the largest homeless population, my city, the economic powerhouse, Los Angeles, takes the “Number Two” spot in the nation for its staggering figures of homeless people.  Los Angeles County has approximately 59,000 homeless which is a 12% jump from 2018 and LA City records 36,300 representing a 16% increase from a year ago. The “unsheltered homeless” represent 75% or 44,000 people for both LA City and County.

There are countless public health risks associated with all these homeless areas and additional risks to persons and properties due to the locations of many of these makeshift encampments – the bone-dry hillsides that make up a significant part of the topography of Southern California.

In one homeless encampment, an open cooking site ignited a fire and pushed by strong Santa Ana winds through the Santa Monica foothills forced my family to evacuate for five-days in December 2017. Five homes up the hill on my street suffered either major damage or were destroyed. It’s been 22-months since that fire but there are still constant reminders as I watch flatbed trucks hauling wood and building materials or cement trucks lumbering up and down the street, as the re-building continues for three of the five homes.

It’s once again autumn and Santa Ana winds have made their annual appearance. The last two weeks have been particularly unnerving with three fires near our home. The first one was quickly extinguished but there have been unconfirmed reports of a homeless person in the vicinity of where the fire started. Two days later, another fire erupted by outdoor cooking at a known encampment of 300 people.  Thankfully, there was no loss of life or property in either case.  We were awakened in the middle of the night by the third fire last week which was visible from our bedroom window. Mandatory evacuations for approximately 10,000 people were in place for four days. Arson investigators determined winds ripped off a tree limb hitting a power line. According to CalFire, our fire season is now year-round even when we are not plagued by ferocious Santa Ana winds.

In order to answer the question, what I would do to make – Los Angeles and California – better places if money and time were no barriers in my life, I’d start with my premise, that the current magnitude of these problems is not being fully addressed at the city, county or state levels nor by the designated public and private services and agencies.

My inter-disciplinary approach would involve legislative changes and amendments, appraisal of existing services which would lead to enhancing current programs, adding new contractual organizations and major capital funding for new building construction and renovation costs for existing structures.

On the Legislative front, I would:

  • Lobby for more stringent ordinances prohibiting any type of encampment in the hills and mountains. It would be a misdemeanor or felony if there is loss of life, and subject to fines and/or jail time.
  • Add an addendum to a newly adopted local ordinance, which designated the “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones” thus allowing the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to clear people out of these hillside encampments, move them to shelters and clean-up at the encampments to reduce the fire risks. The addendum would make this a year-round task not handled only on “Red Flag Warning Days.”
  • Seek additional government funding for ongoing clean-up of dead trees and brush in these “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.”
  • Work to mandate the power and utility companies modernize their transmissions lines and power grids in a specified time period or risk heavy fines or government intervention.

To eradicate the homeless problem, my efforts would fund:

  • Temporary shelters for the unsheltered homeless to get them off the streets or out of the hillsides. Here caseworkers would determine the reasons for the homelessness to assist in the care plan and transition from the shelter. Today’s homeless include teens and the elderly, families and veterans. The reasons which have led to homelessness in many cases are blurred.
  • Job training and placement services along with transitional living situations or reduced rent subsidies for the acute homeless that are without shelter due to a change in their employment or living situation.
  • In-patient services at rehabilitation centers for the drug and alcohol dependent homeless. Aftercare services play a role at discharge to try and avoid a move back to the homeless encampments.
  • In-patient and out-patient services at mental health facilities for the homeless who suffer from mental health issues.
  • Transitional living situations for those leaving drug or alcohol in-patient treatment programs or in-patient mental health centers.
  • Custodial care and re-settlement facilities for the chronically homeless, those suffering from long term drug or alcohol abuse, severe mental health issues or those who have subsided on the streets “forever.”

If money was not a barrier in my life, my broad approach would require major capital expenditures for new construction or rehabilitation of existing buildings for shelters, treatment centers, transitional living environments and custodial or re-settlement environments. Aside from the capital requirements, new services and programs would need to be designed and implemented requiring major personnel resources due to the complexity and categories which make up the homeless population. In order to make “this part of the world” a better place now and for future generations, I want to see homelessness eradicated from my Los Angeles and California.

~RWISA Author, Peggy Hattendorf


Thank you for dropping by today’s RWISA “RISE-UP” stop.  We hope that the message contained here has moved you in some way to RISE UP and do something; one small change could impact the life of another without you even knowing it.  Don’t just sit around talking about the problem, be part of the solution.  It doesn’t take much when you decide that you are going to RISE UP!

Click HERE to follow along with the rest of the tour.


Add yours →

  1. I was born and raised in San Diego and Los Angeles areas and I remember the Santa Ana winds. We had few fires in the 1950-1960 era. There were few homeless people then. The population explosion, building houses far into the foothills and mountains and not keeping the electrical lines and grids up to date are contributing factors. Every time I read about the fires and homelessness, my heart breaks.
    Peggy, I agree with those who suggest you run for office. I think you have well-articulated facts and ideas.


  2. Peggy, your ideas sound both efficient and effective. I hope santa puts a winning lotto ticket in your stocking. 😀


  3. Yvette M. Calleiro November 18, 2019 — 11:34 pm

    I’m in Florida, so we don’t really deal with fires. When I visited CA on one of my road trips a couple of years ago, we passed close enough to a fire for it to be uncomfortable for me. I would hate to have to live there and watch all of those tress (and the animals who live among them) die, not to mention to horrible air quality that you then have to deal with. 😥

    My local community is putting all of the new power lines under ground. I think they should replace ALL of the old power lines as well. I know it would cost a fortune, but they have it and it needs to be done. It’s a sacrifice right now, but it will be worth it in the long run. And that’s one of our issues in our society: no one wants to sacrifice. Each generation wants the next generation to fix the problem because they don’t want to inconvenience the luxuries that they are used to. We just all need to come to terms with the situation and fix the problems NOW before it gets even worse, which is what has been happening for the past couple of decades. :-/


  4. Shirley Harris-Slaughter November 18, 2019 — 10:21 pm

    Wow Peggy. You present such well thought out solutions. The first issue is to tackle the homeless problem. There is blame to go around everywhere and especially with greedy public utilities companies (remember how electricity was cut off years ago just because the speculators decided to shut them off & then they laughed about it). I’ll never forget that and I live in Michigan. Remember all the scandals by these chief executive officers of these investment and utility companies? Enron anyone? That resulted in all the economic meltdown of 2008 when Obama came to the Oval Office. What is going on today is a direct result of that greed and malfeasance. It has nothing to do with whether you are from either Party. It’s all about greed and its coming from the top. They have manipulated the market so that there is CORPORATE WELFARE and nothing is trickling down to deal with the crisis that is now happening in California and in other parts of the country including Michigan where we have our own infrastructure problems.

    Remember the Flint Lead Water poisoning? It still has not been resolved. We do try to take care of our homeless population. They are building affordable housing on vacant land in my neighborhood. And yes the government may have to step in. Maybe if the rich would start carrying their weight we might be able to deal with some of these issues. I would love to have health care that doesn’t bankrupt the average American. There I said it!

    Thank you Peggy for sharing your story. I have a stake in what is happening there because of family ties. All of it is a very emotional and hot-button issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Peggy, thank you for opening our eyes to the problems you’re surrounded by. I’m seeing an ongoing pattern of homelessness being a major issue across the US. It’s heartbreaking to hear such high statistics for California. I pray our visions be heard and that we are able to work towards a better sense of community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • peggyhattendorfcom November 18, 2019 — 9:35 pm

      The homeless situation is an epidemic and it requires more than mere lip service. Mar, I too pray, that our country works toward solving this “humanitarian crisis” before it’s too late.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Outstanding, Peggy! ❤ Sharing…


    • peggyhattendorfcom November 18, 2019 — 9:41 pm

      Thank you, Bette, I sincerely appreciate your comments. Let us all do our share to help eradicate this “plague on our society.” As I travel frequently, I do see homeless situations in many cities around the world – but nothing to the extent that I have found in California, including dry river bed encampments, I saw a few weeks ago when I was in the Sacramento area.


  7. Thanks, Peggy. These issues are right on your doorstep and it’s madness that they continue escalating every year. I was unaware until recently, that the fires were commonly started by the power lines. I hope your household and neighbours have evacuation plans in place.


    • peggyhattendorfcom November 18, 2019 — 9:28 pm

      Yes, Wendy “right on my doorstep.” Three weeks ago, we were standing in the street in the middle of the night watching hills burn – in very close proximity to our home. I alerted my neighbors and we were prepared to evacuate but this time the fire headed away from Bel Air into Brentwood. Then I was communicating with numerous friends from Brentwood who were evacuated. Thank God for the wonderful Los Angeles Fire Department and the aerial assaults they are able to make to help contain the fire. The cause for this one – a spark in the power transformer brushed against a tree branch. And that’s all it takes with this dry vegetation.
      I maintain year-round “to g0” bags for fires and earthquakes. Ugh!


  8. Well said, Peggy. I’m sorry that you live so close to these horrifying fires. I’m thinking that part of the problem with your power infrastructure is irresponsible and greedy private owners. Clearly, they have better things to spend their money on than the necessary upgrades. Perhaps Sacramento needs to step in and take over these companies and their assets so that the upgrades can be completed. Oh my, that sounds downright socialistic! It might work too. You’re right when you suggest that the homeless problem needs to be met with urgent and intelligent action.


    • peggyhattendorfcom November 18, 2019 — 9:53 pm

      John, I would agree with you regarding the “irresponsible and greedy private ownership of the power entities in my state. And Sacramento, is “making overtures” to take over the fulfillment of some of these services – albeit too little almost too late. I appreciate your comments and some of our Canadian friends look down here and shake their heads and wonder why we are where we are . . .

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi, Peggy. You have an excellent grasp of the mess California has become. I have lived in California on and off since the 1970s and in the 70s the state was still liveable. It is becoming less and less so today and it currently is losing more and more people and businesses to places like Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. The problem in California today is that it has become a one-party oligarchy. There is little or no opposition to the governor or to the ruling elite in the Sacramento. When that happens, the changes you so rightly suggest, are hopeless. I live closer to San Diego than L.A. but even in San Diego, the homeless population is approaching 10,000 with no end in sight. When a state declares itself a “Sanctuary State” as California has done, that is a green light, not only to undocumented immigrants but to those who will not or cannot work. It is little wonder then that California has become a state where 60 percent of the population supports the other 40 percent via welfare, etc. The most frustrating dichotomy is the high cost of housing in a state where almost 40 percent of the population is on some kind of public assistance. How is that sustainable? The answer: It isn’t. I love California. The weather is wonderful and the state is beautiful, but unless there is some kind of political shakeup in Sacramento I don’t see things getting any better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t see how this is a political problem, Ron. It seems from Peggy’s article that they are privately owned. Good old private enterprise, too greedy to spend on life-saving upgrades to the power infrastructure. Also, you seem to be suggesting that the homeless problem in southern California is due mainly to illegal immigrants. Peggy didn’t suggest that in her article. The situation there, like in many cities around the world, is highly complex and will not be solved by simplistic finger-pointing at the Democrats.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is a political problem, John. As I said in my note to Peggy, when a state is run by a single party oligarchy, which is the case here in California, guess who sets the policies and establishes the rules? I never suggested that the homeless problem in California is because of its 3 million illegal immigrants. What I said is: “When a state declares itself a “Sanctuary State” as California has done, that is a green light, not only to undocumented immigrants but to those who will not or cannot work.”

        The influx of homeless has risen dramatically since California declared itself a sanctuary state. With more than 100,000 homeless, California now accounts for 25 percent of the nation’s total homeless population. The result is tent cities, feces on the streets, rising communicable diseases, and streets littered with tens of thousands of discarded needles used by homeless drug addicts. Once-beautiful cities like San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and San Diego, are declining into havens of squalor.

        I have covered this state as a journalist for decades. I am not being “simplistic” when I point out the source of California’s ever-worsening problems of decaying infrastructure, the sad decline in the quality of K-12 education, unaffordable housing that exacerbates the homeless problem, a dysfunctional political system that ratchets up mandated spending via special interests, and the continuing exodus of small and medium-sized businesses because of relentlessly rising taxes and onerous regulations—to name just a few. No, John, this is not simplistic finger-pointing at Democrats. They own this mess now that they are the reigning oligarchy. And Gov. Gavin Newsome is their sovereign.


      • Hi, Ron! So, California’s “mess” is thanks to the Dems? I beg to differ, Sir. I think all parties should claim some responsibility for this “mess,” and I’m going to go so far as to say that if it were not for the high cost of living in places like California and the fact that Trump has come into office and made everything difficult for people already struggling, then there would be less “mess.” Thanks to him, there are kids who would normally be able to attend college with the help of financial aid and grants…but, HE (that “mess”) has made it difficult for them to even go that route. College isn’t just for the wealthy, you know. It’s for the poor and the homeless kids with no address to place on their college application. Yes, I hear that’s a requirement to get into some of these colleges today. I re-posted an article just recently about colleges needing food pantries for some of their students? Now, how sad is that?

        I’ll move on from that part of this topic because I’m so wound up right now, I’m getting off track.

        You mentioned something in your response to John F – you said “When a state declares itself a “Sanctuary State” as California has done, that is a green light, not only to undocumented immigrants but to those who will not or cannot work.” Let’s focus on those who CANNOT WORK. So, by your own admission they cannot work…well, if they cannot work, how can they afford housing? Or, food for that matter? Some of these undocumented “people” had to flee their country for the safety of their families, their children. Would you not do ANY and EVERYTHING to protect your family, your children? Some of them can’t afford the cost of going through the process (yet) of becoming citizens. Give them time.

        Some of you need to stop worrying so much about the almighty dollar or the little extra that it might end up costing us, and focus on PEOPLE…HUMANS. Those illegal immigrants, are people, too, and just because they don’t look like us, they may not speak our language, does not make them any less than us. Some people have no choice but to live on the street – some are lucky to live out of their cars if they have them.

        Let’s stop pointing fingers as some of these people need our compassion, not our scathing labels. They’re not “mess,” they’re humans whose hearts beat just like yours.

        I don’t usually have time to leave long responses, but there are those times, like now, when certain things get my blood boiling.

        Now, you all have an amazing day! I’m stepping down from my high-horse.

        Liked by 1 person

    • peggyhattendorfcom November 18, 2019 — 10:04 pm

      Ron, I would delight in having a conversation with you about our state – California.
      I have lived in San Diego, Palm Desert, three times in the Bay area as well as LA and am aghast at how bad these situations have become. I was mortified recently when I was out of the country on a cruise and while seated with “new friends” in a lounge area was listening to one of the major news broadcasts. The segment they were showing was a graphic portrayal of the plight of the homeless in downtown Los Angeles.


      • Hi, Peggy. I would love to talk to you about our state sometime. Our state is in crisis and the governor is doing his best imitation of Emperor Nero–fiddling while the state burns—literally. We have more than 100,000 homeless–fully 25 percent of the entire nation’s homeless population. We live in the hills of Murrieta, north of San Diego. The other day, while on our morning walk, we discovered four homeless people sleeping in a children’s playground. There were discarded needles on the ground, along with empty whiskey bottles, and two piles of human feces. It’s sad to see our state in such decline.


  10. D.L. Finn, Author November 18, 2019 — 6:28 pm

    Well said, Peggy! You should run for office. I think ideas along with money will solve this. It’s just as bad in Northern California, too. We live in a similar terrian like Paradise and not very far from it.
    I watched PGE replace one road of lines this summer, yet they left some trees that should have been cut…at least in my opinion. Our lines at our house are underground for two miles. But with the rest above ground it does us no good. I think in heavily treed areas the lines should be underground.

    We had fires started by homeless camps here, too during the power outages. It’s scary.

    Although our community does have in place some of the solutions you talk about, the ones who can’t pass a drug test, want help or have pets, are still camping.

    Our area is trying to take over our own power grid. Hopefully communities can do that who are more motivated to fix it other than the plan to shut it off and hope.

    It would be nice to go in and fit it all. Bring in the work force to get it done. Build the places we need to help the homeless especially for mental health and drug issues.

    I still remain hopeful and know each of us has to get involved. Thanks. Peggy for this piece and insight into our states problems.


    • peggyhattendorfcom November 18, 2019 — 10:09 pm

      From one Californian to another – I share your hope and optimism. We must do better . . .before its too late. Thanks, for sharing your personal perspective on these problems, Denise.

      Liked by 1 person

      • D.L. Finn, Author November 19, 2019 — 12:53 am

        Stay safe, Peggy! As long as we focus on the ideas and not us and them we’ve got this.


      • Agreed, Denise – take the focus off of “us and them” and place it squarely on one of the more serious problems…cleaning up the homeless issue in our cities so that we can offer dignity and hope to those who are clearly without it as they sleep with their kids on park benches and under bridges.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my goodness, Peggy. You have a close-up view of these huge problems. While we’d love to find magical solutions, yours is a basic and logical approach. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and here’s hoping California government will wake up and get on the ball to solve this crisis! Best wishes to you as the winds make their appearance again.


    • peggyhattendorfcom November 18, 2019 — 10:18 pm

      Thanks, Jan, I appreciate your comments. I too, hope that both the public and private sectors at all levels in California “wake up and get on the ball” to solve these horrendous issues before the state losses too much of it’s population tax base.
      Having formally lived in Texas, I am eyeing your state for a possible return.


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