Would you believe that L.A.'s homeless population has fallen by 38 percent? The numbers seemed suspicious when they were released a couple of weeks ago (LABO) - and those suspicions appear to be growing among the folks who work on behalf of the homeless. From the LAT:
"We've been describing an overwhelming tsunami of families" seeking services, said Andy Bales, president of Union Rescue Mission. "There's no way that anybody who works with families would agree with [those numbers]. ... I was expecting a recant of those published numbers by now, but apparently they are going to dig in and hold on to that."
Based on a census count conducted over three days in January, the number of homeless in the region fell from 68,808 in 2007 to 42,694. The census was conducted by more than 3,000 volunteers and overseen by demographers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But such counts are notoriously difficult to conduct - and what worries homeless advocates is that a lower number could mean less funding.
Compounding the problem is that when the numbers were released, the city-county Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority came out with a self-serving press release that cited local government programs as a reason for the drop. Not likely. CurbedLA asked Joel John Roberts, CEO of PATH Partners, a nonprofit that helps communities provide services to the homeless, what he thought of the reported decline. "Four things lead to drops in homeless counts: changes in the methodology for counting the homeless, more housing for the homeless, the homeless moving out of Los Angeles and the homeless becoming better at dodging the count. I think all four of those occurred. Whether the drop was real or the by-product of fuzzy math in previous years, is hard to say."