A new study released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) on Thursday found that the number of homeless in the City of Los Angeles grew by 10% from last year, with the overall number in Los Angeles County growing by 9%.
The 2023 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count study specifically found that there were an estimated 75,518 homeless people in Los Angeles County, up from 69,144 last year, with a total of 46,260 in the city, up from roughly 42,000 in 2022. Double digit increases had also been reported in counts in 2019 and 2020. Following the skipped pandemic year of 2021, levels were found to have been leveling off, offering hope to many that homelessness in the city and county had possibly peaked. However, the study on Thursday dashed all hopes, bringing in huge increases once again.
In the city, most of the growth occurred in the Westside and Harbor areas, owing to fewer street parking laws, areas with rent that increased significantly, and tougher homeless controls in other parts of the city. The number of those with chronic homelessness and those living outside also saw sharp increases of 18%, with the number of chronic homeless in shelters going up by 7%. In terms of race, 31% of all homeless were black, with Latinos coming in at 43%, Asians with 2%, and whites with around 24%.
A press release by LAHSA on Thursday reported, “While this year’s increases are slightly lower than previous year-over-year increases in the homeless count, they continue a steady growth trend of people experiencing homelessness in the annual Point-in-Time Count.”
However, with the numbers far from optimistic, members of LAHSA added that the situation was getting worse despite years of efforts through funds like Proposition HHH and failed programs like Project Roomkey and the Safe Homeless Initiative.
“The homeless count results tell us what we already know — that we have a crisis on our streets, and it’s getting worse,” said LAHSA CEO Va Lecia Adams Kellum. “The important thing to take away from today is that for the first time, the city, county, and LAHSA are moving with urgency to house the people living on our streets.”
“The results are definitely disappointing with all the hard work and all the investment, but they’re not surprising. We thought with last year’s numbers that we were flattening the curve. However, what we see in this trajectory is that people remain in a situation of vulnerability where they’re falling into homelessness faster than we can house them.”
A rise in homelessness in LA City, LA County
Mayor Karen Bass also gave a statement on Thursday. Refusing to acknowledge that the Safe Homeless Initiative she set up was not working, Bass added, “The challenge before us is vast, but we will continue to work with urgency to bring Angelenos inside. We must sustain our momentum by locking arms with leaders at every level of government as we confront this crisis as the emergency that it is. Lives depend on it.”
However, homeless experts said on Thursday that Los Angeles’ initiatives have just not been working, with many saying that funding should be going to job placement and associative low-income housing projects for a rise out of homelessness.
“LA has been doing it all wrong,” said Mark Wagner, a Philadelphia-based researcher on homelessness, to the Globe on Thursday. “They’ve been pushing mainly for temporary housing. And while housing is important, especially in colder months, they just aren’t looking at this in the right way. The best homeless services have had a sort of job-housing pairing where the city or homeless agency gets the homeless person in question a job and also provides them with low-income housing for a six or twelve month span. Within that time, they start up building credit and getting basic human needs like health insurance and clothing.”
“Then, when the time is up, they get their own place and are given support, such as help with transportation or mental health services if needed, and are gradually weaned off. LA is going for the quick fix. The Olympics and a bunch of other events are pushing on them to hide the homeless problem, and you can be sure that a few weeks before the games LA is going to suddenly not have a lot of homeless people around because they’ll be put up somewhere miles away in a hotel or something completely out of sight.”
“But the city needs a long-term plan, Housing first is a mistake, despite the good intentions. It needs to be job-housing, where we tell them “We’ll help you to a certain point, but you need to be on your own again eventually. They got a bad break, they’ve paid at least some form of tax, so they can benefit. Like unemployment. You lose your job, you paid into the system, so you’ll be helped out for a bit. LA is just not looking at it from that perspective. And these new figures only prove how the current system just isn’t working. They’re running out of excuses.”
More plans for decreasing homelessness are expected to be announced later this year.
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