The results of a new count on the amount of homeless in Los Angeles County was delivered to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday and the numbers weren't good news. According to the results of the study, there is a staggering 58,936 people currently living on the streets, in vehicles and in shelters in L.A. County. That marks a 12% increase over last year's count, officials said.
“We have the largest unsheltered population in the nation and one of the largest homeless counts across America. Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night,” according to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Executive Director Peter Lynn.
The city of Los Angeles saw an even larger jump in the amount of homeless living in the city with around 36,000 people an increase of 16% over last year.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the increase in homelessness "heartbreaking.''
"These results remind us of a difficult truth: skyrocketing rents statewide and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with an epidemic of untreated trauma and mental illness, is pushing people into homelessness faster than they can be lifted out,'' he said.
Though people suffering from severe mental illness or with substance- abuse problems are among the most visible members of the homeless community, they make up just 29% of the total homeless population.
Black Angelenos were four times more likely to end up homeless, a finding consistent with data from earlier counts that Lynn attributed to "deep institutional racism in the culture.''
About 75% of those homeless were reportedly living outside, a testimony to the state's lack of affordable housing and high rental prices, which led to more people living on the streets. City officials estimate more than 500,000 new housing units are needed in the city for low-income renters. Programs dedicated to helping the homeless have allocated more than a half-billion dollars in new initiatives meant to help move people into shelters and permanent housing. Phil Ansell, who is in charge of the county's Homeless Initiative says a booming economy can acutally lead to an "increase in homelessness."
Because rental rates have outpaced wages in the L.A. area, people living on the margins and those who make minimum wage find themselves stretching a budget too thin and often have to choose between eating and having a home over their head. According to a recent survey, a minimum-wage employee would need to work 79 hours every week to afford the rent for an average one-bedroom apartment in L.A.
A sales tax imposed by Measure H in 2017 expanded homeless services and got more than 20,000 people off the street and into some form of housing according to county records. However, the number of people becoming homeless have outpaced those gains.
“If we don't change the fundamentals of housing affordability, this is going to be a very long road,” Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority told The Los Angeles Times. “If we don't get ahead of affordability, we're going to be very hard pressed to get ahead of homelessness.”
County officials have backed a bill that would help speed the conversions of motels into homeless shelters. Another plan could see homeless veterans being housed at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The county has also added a 3 percent cap on rental increases in unincorporated areas. Voters in 2018 gave the thumbs down to a proposal that would give local governments more power in enacting rent control in their area.
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