The annual tally of the local homeless population, conducted in January, confirmed what the eyes have been telling people across Los Angeles. The count tallied a 23 percent increase since last year in the number of people living on the streets or in temporary shelters. The numbers are up almost across the board, including 57 percent among veterans — a group supposedly targeted for special help by local officials — and are at a new high even though many more also were placed in housing in the past year. So embarrassing as this is, the total could have been much higher.
The count of 57,794 people without a home on any given night includes those sleeping in the tent encampments under many freeway bridges in Los Angeles and on the sidewalks of major boulevards all over town, and in cars or vans, in alleys, in the Los Angeles River channel or in creeks and washes. About a quarter of the total were counted in temporarily indoor shelters, but it was those trying to survive at night outdoors or in cars who drove most of the spike.
“Staggering,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. "There's no sugarcoating the bad news," Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference, where he admitted to surprise. Getting the homeless off the streets has become a central goal of Garcetti's administration.
The homeless population counted this year is 31 percent female (17,882 people), 9 percent children (5,370) and 7 percent over age 62 (4,005) under age 18. about 30 percent have serious mental illnesses and 18 percent are substance abusers. Three in four of the homeless counted said they have lived in Los Angeles County at least five years.
More than 21,000 said they were homeless for the first time in their lives, including more than 8.000 who said they had become homeless in the past year. Only about 30 percent
were classified as chronically homeless.
The totals were up by double-digit percentages in each of the elected Supervisors' districts and in all regions of the county, with the exception of the city of Long Beach.
In Los Angeles, the count 34,189 homeless people, 20 percent more than a year ago. More than 25,000 of them are living outside of shelters on sidewalks, in vacant lots and parks, under bridges or in vehicles. The two City Council districts in the West Valley were the only areas of the city to see a decrease in the count.
The report released Wednesday by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority breaks down the count in much detail. You can check out the whole thing here. This is the breakdown for how many people the agency believes were living in vehicles, tents and makeshift shelters during the count — excluding the cities of Long Beach, Glendale and Pasadena.
And remember this: it's very possible the actual numbers are higher, especially for this hard to count sub-population. All of the tables included here are from the LAHSA report.
Garcetti, the other politicians and homeless services providers blamed high rents for much of the rise. They are hoping that the sales tax increase put in place by voters who passed Measure H will soon start generating money for the homeless, and that Measure HHH will start to provide money to build permanent housing units. But the details of just how the money will help and how quickly seem lacking.
"The results of LAHSA’s homeless count are not a surprise to Angelenos, who have seen the number of unsheltered people in their neighborhoods grow before their eyes," Garcetti said in a statement. "The extraordinary number of people falling into homelessness shows that we still face a historic shortage of affordable housing, a staggering mental health crisis, insufficient support for veterans and foster youth, and inadequate resources to help formerly incarcerated Angelenos turn their lives around."
"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," said Elise Buik, president & CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "These units aren’t going to build themselves. The 2017 Homeless Count results show the need to deploy these resources as quickly as possible."