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Homelessness in L.A. County jumps 23% as need far outpaces available housing, new count shows

May 31, 2017
“THIS IS DEEPLY TROUBLING”  Editorial  Point
Homelessness in L.A. County jumps 23% as need far outpaces available housing, new count shows

Los Angeles County’s homeless population has soared to nearly 58,000, a 23% increase over last year despite increasing success in placing people in housing, according to a report released today.

Homelessness increased at a similar pace in the city of Los Angeles, where the count of just over 34,000 was up 20%, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said.

The city of Los Angeles' homeless count rose in 2017.

The Los Angeles count, the largest in the nation, includes shelter numbers and a street tally conducted by 7,700 volunteers over three days and nights in January. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has required a count for the past dozen years to receive federal homelessness aid.

The numbers are a snapshot of the highly fluid homeless population at a point in time; the number of people who lose their homes over the course of a year is more than three times greater.

New York City traditionally reports the most homeless people in the country, living primarily in its extensive shelter system. But Los Angeles has the highest number by far of homeless people living in sidewalk tents and lean-tos or in cars and campers, and tops the nation in people living without homes a year or more.

Earlier this month, Orange County reported an 8% increase in its homeless population over two years. More than half of the county’s nearly 4,800 homeless people were living without shelter.

A 26% increase toppled years of stagnant or declining numbers in Santa Monica, bringing its homeless population to nearly 1,000, the highest number in a decade. City officials said more than half the homeless people came from other parts of the county.

In the big picture of Los Angeles County, the most drastic increase — 48% — occurred in the San Gabriel Valley district of Supervisor Hilda Solis, where the count rose to just under 13,000.

The South Los Angeles district of Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the leading voice in the county’s homeless initiative, remained the most affected with nearly 19,000 people counted, a 22% increase.

Surveys conducted with the Los Angeles count provided demographic breakdowns for the portion of the county excluding Long Beach, Pasadena and Glendale, cities that conduct their own counts.

These showed increases of 20% or more for every type of improvised shelter — cars (2,147), vans (1,862), campers and recreational vehicles (4,545), tents (2,343) and makeshift shelters (3,516).

Youths made up the fastest growing homeless age group with those 18 to 24 up 64%, followed by those under 18 at 41%.

While blacks remained the largest racial/ethnic group, making up 40% of all homeless people, the number of Latinos grew by almost two-thirds. Whites declined by a modest 2% and Asians, though remaining only 1% of all homeless people, increased by nearly a third.

Three-fourths of homeless people reported they had been in the county for five years or more and only 12% had been residents for less than a year.

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