County of Los Angeles: Homelessness snapshot

A man and a woman walk at a homeless camp alongside the San Gabriel River beneath the State Route 90 Freeway in El Monte during an operation to rescue people from the river on Dec. 16 after a late fall storm triggered mud flows and flooded roads. AP photo

Homeless population grows in L.A. County and Santa Clarita

The homeless population continues to grow in Los Angeles County. As of January 2016, there were 46,874 people experiencing homelessness countywide on any given night, an overall 5.7 percent increase since 2015. Since 2013, the number of unsheltered homeless people living in encampments, tents and vehicles increased by 123 percent.

In the city of Santa Clarita, the homeless population has more than doubled — from 152 in 2013 to 316 in 2016.

There are some bright spots, however: From 2015 to 2016, the number of homeless veterans in the county decreased by 30 percent and the number of people in homeless families with children decreased by 18 percent. These positive trends demonstrate the effectiveness of the recent increase in coordinated, targeted investments to fight homelessness among veterans and families.

The county responds

In August 2015, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors launched the Homeless Initiative to develop a coordinated set of strategies to combat homelessness. The county’s Homeless Initiative spearheaded a planning process that included 18 policy summits on nine topics, in which 25 county departments, 30 cities and more than 100 community organizations participated.

These key stakeholders worked together to look beyond silos in funding and programs as they developed strategies to effectively and efficiently combat the crisis of homelessness pervading our communities.

On Feb. 9, 2016, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan that consists of 47 coordinated strategies and $100 million in one-time funding to launch implementation of the strategies. The 47 strategies are divided into six areas, each essential to addressing the problem:

  • Prevent homelessness
  • Subsidize housing
  • Increase income
  • Provide case management and services
  • Create a coordinated system
  • Increase affordable/homeless housing

Key roles for cities

Homelessness is a complex problem requiring active, sustained collaboration among the county, cities, community service providers, businesses and faith organizations. In this context, cities have opportunities to partner with the county in combating homelessness, particularly by:

  • Contributing city funding toward the cost of rapid re-housing for homeless city residents
  • Dedicating federal housing subsidies to permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals
  • Ensuring that law enforcement and other first responders effectively engage homeless families and individuals
  • Using land use policy to maximize the availability of homeless and affordable housing

To promote collaboration between cities and the county, the county hosted the Mayors’ Regional Summit to Combat Homelessness on March 31, 2016. Nearly 200 people attended, representing 56 cities plus the unincorporated areas.

What’s ahead: March 7 ballot measure to combat homelessness

On Dec. 6, 2016, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to place a measure on the March 7, 2017, ballot that would add one-quarter-cent to the county’s sales tax to generate the funding needed to sustain and fully implement the 47 Homeless Initiative strategies.

Information compiled by Phil Ansell, director of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative.

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