Nearly 60,000 residents are now homeless
The number of homeless people in Los Angeles County surged 23 percent last year, data released today by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority shows. In the city of Los Angeles, results were only slightly better, with a 20 percent rise in homelessness.
The findings are based on the agency’s annual homeless count, undertaken by thousands of volunteers in January. The count quantifies the number of both sheltered (those living in shelters and other temporary facilities) and unsheltered (those living on the streets or in vehicles and encampments) residents countywide, minus the cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach.
This year’s report shows that the county’s total homeless population has swelled to 57,794 residents—up from 46,874 in 2016. In the city of LA, 34,189 people experience homelessness on a given night.
Alarmingly, one of the most dramatic increases was in the number of youth, which shot up 61 percent since last year. The count found that across LA County, nearly 6,000 residents under the age of 24 are now homeless.
The increases come even as officials at the city and county level have renewed efforts to combat homelessness. Last year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced plans to dramatically increase city spending on homeless services, and in November, voters approved a $1.2 billion bond measure paying for construction of affordable housing for homeless residents and veterans.
Then, in March, voters across LA County signed off on a quarter-cent sales tax increase for an even more comprehensive plan to house the homeless.
Obviously, it will take time for those plans to pay dividends, but county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl notes in a press release that 14,000 residents were housed last year through county services. “[W]e just can’t keep up,” Kuehl says, arguing that high housing costs and stagnating incomes are to blame for the increase.
Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, says the results should be an impetus for local leaders to prioritize construction of new affordable housing.
“It’s on all of us in L.A. County—non-profits, service providers, government officials, and everyday residents—to ensure that we expedite the permanent supportive housing that our homeless neighbors so desperately need,” she says. “And these units aren’t going to build themselves.”