2017 Count Finds Huge Homeless Increase
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at May 31 homeless count press conference. Mayor Garcetti and CD8 Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson look on.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) announced the results of its January 2017 countywide homeless count May 31. Since January 2016 there were now 13,940 more homeless people in LA County and 5,725 in the city, increases of 23% and 20%. There are now 57,794 homeless in the county, of which 42,966 are unsheltered, living on the streets. For the city it is 34,189, with 25,237 unsheltered.
The numbers were released at a meeting at LAHSA’s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. It opened with a press conference addressed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and City Council District 8 councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who is also chair of the City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee. Peter Lynn, LAHSA’s Executive Director, then presented the findings of the 2017 count, which had been tabulated by USC.
Mayor Garcetti declared, “We have a housing and homelessness crisis. It requires an extraordinary response.”
This year’s increases were far greater than from 2015 to 2016, which saw a 7% jump in the county and 11% in the city.
Where Are They?
Among the 15 City Council Districts the four with the largest concentrations are CD 14, which includes Downtown’s Skid Row as well as Boyle Heights and Eagle Rock, at 7,386; CD 9, East LA plus USC, at 3,843; CD 13, Hollywood plus part of the heavily immigrant community north of MacArthur Park, with 3,282.
CD 1, a majority Latino district that includes Pico Union, Highland Park, and Chinatown, saw the greatest growth, at 49%, boosting its homeless population to 2,958. Runner-up for biggest increase was Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s CD8, which runs south from the 10 Freeway to 119th Street. It registered a 45% increase, bringing it to 2,178.
A larger unit than the City Council districts are the county’s 8 Service Planning Areas (SPAs). The largest concentration, at 15,393, is in SPA 4, which includes Downtown and West Hollywood. The next, however, is SPA6. This is the geographically smallest of the Service Planning Areas, but encompasses one of the poorest sections of the city: south Los Angeles, from the 10 Freeway down to include Compton, Paramount, and Lynwood, an overwhelmingly black and Latino section. SPA6 accounted for 9,243 of the city’s homeless.
Two of the other SPAs, however, had extraordinary growth in homelessness in the last year, though it did not bring them up to the totals above. These were SPA1, out in the Antelope Valley on the edge of the Mojave Desert, at 50%, topping out at 4,559, and SPA7, the mainly Latino east Los Angeles communities such as Huntington Park, Pico Rivera, and Santa Fe Springs. This area also hit a 50% increase, now standing at 5,189.
For the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (which excludes Long Beach, Glendale, and Pasadena, as they do their own count), the counters found 14,412 street camps and vehicles used as dwellings. This was a 26% increase over 2016.
Who Are They?
In addition to the three-day street count last January for raw numbers carried out by some 8,000 volunteers, paid canvassers secured just under 5,000 demographic surveys to find out more about who the homeless are. Some 49,012 of the countywide 57,794 are single individuals, of whom 16,916 are long-term, chronically homeless. And 4,778 are veterans. 31% of the homeless are women, while 484 identified themselves as transgender. There was a 29% increase in homeless families compared to 2016, to 8,529 individuals, although fewer were unsheltered. Some 5,983 youths (24-years-old and younger) were found to be homeless, a 61% increase from the previous year.
Last year African Americans comprised 39% of the homeless, Latinos, 27%, and whites, 25%. In the 2017 count African Americans, at 21,921, were 40% of the total, but Latinos had swelled to 19,391, or 35%. This was a 63% increase, showing that a new wave of homelessness has hit the county’s Latino communities.
There were major changes in the ethnic demographic since 2016. Last year African Americans comprised 39% of the homeless, Latinos, 27%, and whites, 25%. (Asians, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders made up most of the rest). In the 2017 count African Americans, at 21,921, were 40% of the total, but Latinos had swelled to 19,391, or 35%. This was a 63% increase, showing that a new wave of homelessness has hit the county’s Latino communities in the last year. At the same time, white share of the homeless dropped to 20%.
Major causes of homelessness have been mental illness, substance addiction, physical disability, and being the victims of domestic violence. This year mental health held steady at 30% of the homeless people questioned. There was a decline in acknowledged substance abuse, falling from 23% in 2016 to 18% in 2017. 17% of the homeless are physically disabled, while a shocking 34% are victims of domestic violence (this includes both women and children of both sexes).
One setback was with veterans. Last year LAHSA celebrated a 30% decrease in county veteran homelessness, going from 4,362 in 2015 to 3,071 in 2016. This ran backwards in the 2017 count, which found a 57% increase in homeless vets, at 4,828.
While people continue to stream onto the streets from unreachable rents, job loss, disability, family breakups, mental illness, or major medical events, the county and city have managed to house a large number of people. In 2016, 14,214 people were moved from homelessness into permanent housing. This was a 30% increase from 2015 and a 61% increase from 2014. The majority of these people had only recently become homeless. More difficult to place are the chronic homeless, who have a higher rate of mental illness and addiction and are often inured to years of life on the streets. There have been advances here as well. In 2016, 2,683 of the chronically homeless were gotten permanent housing, a 536% increase from 2014. This was before the bond funding from Proposition HHH has kicked in or the direct support from the sale tax increase of Measure H.
What the City and County Leaders Said
Mayor Eric Garcetti: “We see it on our streets, in our parks, along the freeways. They are us. One bad medical bill, one bout of addiction, one episode of mental illness” can put you on the streets. Los Angeles “has the biggest gap between housing costs and wages in the country. . . . We can’t let rents go up by double digits every year.” He called on state leaders to confront the LA housing crisis.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas: “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done. We will review the recommendation of the Committee of 50 on funding from Measure H on June 13. For the last two years we have had our heads down working out best practices. We have the capacity to stand up to it. Think where we would be if there were no Proposition HHH, no Measure H.”
He added that “All 88 cities in the county will be involved in confronting this problem.”
City Council Member for District 8 Marqueece Harris-Dawson: “We have more and more people on the precipice of homelessness. We need to double down on a source of affordable housing. Some people work two jobs and still can’t afford Los Angeles rents.”