Homelessness Soars 23% in County Over Past Year
Los Angeles Downtown News
By Eddie Kim
May 31, 2017

DTLA — The number of homeless individuals in the region spiked last year, with the situation worsening despite widespread efforts to get people off the streets and into housing.

Overall homelessness in Los Angeles County jumped 23% over 2016 levels, while the increase in the city was 20%, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

The report, based on a count conducted in January by LAHSA, found that there were 57,794 homeless individuals in the county, up from 46,874 people living without permanent shelter last year. The city count grew from 28,464 in 2016 to 34,189.

The spike comes despite approximately 9,000 people being housed in the past year in the city and county, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who attended the presentation of the numbers at LAHSA’s Downtown headquarters.

Garcetti called the situation an “unprecedented crisis.”

“We didn’t need a homeless count just to know what we know, which is that Los Angeles is undergoing a housing and homelessness crisis,” Garcetti said. “We have gotten better at counting. We must get better at housing.”

The change is being felt particularly in Skid Row, with LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn declaring that the impoverished community has seen a “very significant increase.” According to the count, the 14th Council District, which includes Skid Row and the rest of Downtown Los Angeles, saw about 1,700 more homeless individuals than last year — a 32% rise. The count found 7,389 homeless people in CD14, by far the largest overall number (the Ninth District, which includes South Los Angeles, was the next highest, with 3,843 individuals).

The report revealed a number of alarming trends. It found that 60% of the people on the streets were homeless for the first time, with 8,000 people becoming homeless within the past year. Additionally, in the city, the vast majority of homeless people were found to be unsheltered, with 25,237 individuals living on the streets, and just 8,952 in shelters or some other type of temporary housing.

The numbers also continue a years-long trend of worsening homelessness. In 2013, LAHSA found there were 39,461 homeless people in the county, with an 85% increase in people living in vehicles, tents and other makeshift structures. Two years later, the county recorded 44,359 homeless individuals.

A rare bright spot is that the chronically homeless population is increasing at a slower rate now than the overall population, Lynn said. About 2,700 chronically homeless people were placed into permanent housing last year, according to LAHSA. That represents a 121% increase from 2015 and a 536% increase from 2014.

“It’s directly attributable to the power and reach of the Coordinated Entry System we’ve developed to focus our resources of permanent supportive housing on the people of highest need,” Lynn said.

City and county leaders have been desperately trying to get a handle on a situation that by many accounts has spiraled out of control. Last year, Garcetti told Los Angeles Downtown News that he spends approximately 40% of his time working on issues related to homelessness.

Angelenos have also taken a role. Last November, city voters passed Proposition HHH, a property tax bond that is expected to raise $1.2 billion over a decade, and fund the construction of up to 10,000 units of low-income housing. In March, county voters approved Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax that will provide an estimated $355 million a year for services for homeless individuals.

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