The first Los Angeles County homeless count since 2020 is expected to begin on Tuesday, with millions of dollars in federal and state funding on the line over the count.
The count, usually conducted annually every January by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) was cancelled last year due to the high COVID-19 rates in the county, and then delayed again last month due to the Omicron surge. Now, with new cases rapidly falling and colder weather making it easier to conduct a more accurate count, the 2022 count is expected to take place for three days starting on Tuesday.
In addition to the millions of dollars of homeless funding dependent on the numbers, this years count not only has monetary considerations, but political as well. Homelessness, along with the closely tied-in affordable housing issue, are amongst the top hot button issues for the election this year. Polls for the LA Mayoral race have found it to be a top issue, with House races, state legislative elections, and even the Gubernatorial election all carrying it as a top issue as well. A number above or below the 2020 Los Angeles County homeless total of 66,436 will have major implications on what more should be done, how much more in funds should go to the problem. and perhaps most critically, what candidates can offer as solutions for homelessness and affordable housing.
The LAHSA count, considered to be the most complete and reliable of homeless counts in the LA area, will consist of 7,000 volunteers going through the Valleys to the coast. Using electronic tools, places deemed occupied by the homeless will be tallied up, then broken down by how many live there by USC demographic data. In total, the count costs over $1 million and should be out in May or early June – likely just before the June 7th primary.
A long awaited homeless count in LA County
However, others waiting for the numbers are thinking politically, especially with 2022 being a major election year for local, county, and state elections.
“Oh yeah, we are waiting very eagerly for this,” said “John,” an anonymous staffer for a Southern California House candidate who is their lead on issues such as homelessness and housing. “If you are looking at solid numbers to talk about, the LAHSA figures are indisputable. It’s a wide canvass and a top University going through it all. It’s not exact, with counting the homeless it’s never exact, but it’s the best metric we have. And you can use those numbers for all sorts of things from arguing for greater affordable housing incentives for developers to figuring out the best places in the district to talk to residents about cleaning up areas with high numbers of homeless people.”
“They’re using this info for homeless strategies. Well, politically speaking, so are we. Candidates can better understand the issue and what to do about it in LA County. Statewide races too, even nationally.”
The LAHSA homeless count is expected to be released in either May or June later this year.