'The city has become unbearable': Why are so many people leaving Los Angeles?

Saturday 12th September 2020 19:30 BST

Homelessness has long been a problem in US cities such as Los Angeles.

Since the pandemic hit, the number of people living in tents in the city has grown visibly.

In the wealthy neighbourhood of Venice Beach, rows of tents now dominate the sidewalks in affluent residential streets.

One realtor, who didn't want to be identified, told Sky News one of his clients returned to her Venice Beach home to find a homeless man in her kitchen.

"It was at that point she said 'I'm out' and put her house on the market," he said.

"As a woman living on her own, she didn't feel safe living there anymore."

You hear this time and time again from people.

The city feels more dangerous, the homelessness is out of control - on top of high taxes and eye-watering rents, many are considering moving out if they haven't already.

Comedian Joe Rogan is one high-profile resident who has left LA for Texas - citing overcrowding, traffic and homelessness as the driving factors. He is not alone.

Kerstin, a British expat, posted online: "We've just left LA and moved to Ojai because things in the city became unbearable for us."

When contacted she told Sky News: "We have quite a few people in our circle of friends who are either leaving LA because of COVID or planning on it.

"It's caused a seismic shift in many people's lives and priorities. LA is going downhill. Homelessness is out of control and the inequality that exists in the city is more visible than ever."

You can't mistake the growing gulf between the rich and poor here.

In Venice Beach, sandwiched between Gold's gym where Arnold Schwarzenegger trains and a Google corporate office, are rows of tents where people are now living.

It really is a tale of two cities.

As tents pile up on LA sidewalks, you see the For Sale and For Lease signs appearing too.

Homes are now empty on some of Hollywood's most sought-after streets.

Removal companies are working flat out too - and some have seen a huge increase in demand from people moving out of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Danny O'Brian, who recently sold his business Watson's Removals, said: "We can't get enough trucks in to get the stuff out."

Despite having a booming trade, he has made the decision to leave LA too.

The cost of living was the driving reason in his decision to move to Nashville for a more affordable life, but the city's deteriorating conditions are a big factor too.

"You can't even walk on the street for tents in some places. People passed out on the street - these are the images your kids are seeing now. And now we're encouraging people to be there by putting in bathroom facilities."

The city has seen a 16.1% rise in homelessness this year to 41,290, according the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

This data is from January, before coronavirus hit.

Since then unemployment has reached nearly 20% here.

It is estimated another 36,000 households in LA could end up homeless due to the pandemic.

Scott Campbell has lived in his tent in Venice Beach for two months.

He said: "I've owned two homes. Had the mortgage, the insurance, the responsibility.

"There's going to be a lot of people out of homes with rents not being paid, mortgages not being paid so I would like to show people how to do this," he says gesturing to his tent.

Even before the pandemic hit there was a steady migration out of cities like LA, New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Coronavirus has just exacerbated the exodus.

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Bulldog Realtors in Venice Beach maintain the market is buoyant.

But selling multimillion-dollar houses next to homeless encampments is undoubtedly a growing challenge.

The company's director Bob Friday said: "Maybe we need to get away from the attitude of, 'oh don't put that housing project in my backyard'. It's got to go somewhere."

He continued: "These things won't go away by us putting the blinders on and pretending they're not there. We can see that now."

LA has long been an expensive place to live, but for people with dreams it felt worth the price.

This may not be a permanent shift, but for now LA's allure has been greatly dimmed by its growing social and economic issues.

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