UPDATE: Homelessness increases almost 25 percent in L.A. County

Lori Broadway sits in Veteran's Historical Plaza Park. Austin Dave /The Signal
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The homeless population in Los Angeles County has increased 23 percent since last year, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported Wednesday.

In Los Angeles County as a whole, there are 57,794 people who were homeless in 2017, an increase from 2016 when there were 46,874 people experiencing homelessness.

The homeless count was conducted in January by 8,000 volunteers who tallied up those who are homeless, both sheltered and unsheltered.

Of those homeless in the county, 42,828 were unsheltered and 14,966 were sheltered. Men made up 68 percent of those who are homeless, women made up 31 percent, people who are transgender made up one percent and 0.3 percent did not identify in any of these categories.

According to age, 81 percent of homeless people were over 25 years old, 10 percent were between 18 and 24 and nine percent were under age 18. In total, 30 percent have a “serious mental illness,” 18 percent have a substance abuse disorder, eight percent are veterans and two percent have HIV/AIDS.

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s Communication Deputy Tony Bell said especially in light of these numbers, their office is committed to working to meet the unique needs of each community.

“I think it underscores the need to act strategically,” Bell said. “We will rely on our community partners who know how to serve and solve the needs of each of these communities.”

According to Barger, Bell said, finding housing solutions alone will not end the housing crisis. Mental health help and other services will be needed to get well-rounded solutions, he said.

“We will replicate and enhance existing programs to have a proven track record of success,” Bell said. “We will make sure the Measure H dollars go where the need is greatest.”

The Santa Clarita Valley, alongside the San Fernando Valley, is located in Service Planning Area 2 out of eight in the county. Area 2 had an increase of five percent homelessness to a total of 7,459.

Homeless individuals who were sheltered totaled 1,664 and those unsheltered totaled 5,795 in the area.

Maria Dulac, development coordinator and volunteer at Bridge to Home, said she does not know how much of this increase is in Santa Clarita specifically, but said the organization will continue to offer services and help to the valley’s homeless people.

She said this increase in the homeless population is largely due to rising housing prices both city and county wide.

“It’s becoming a lot more difficult for people to find or keep housing,” Dulac said. “As an organization, we know the need.”

Bridge to Home staff has an ongoing conversation about getting funding for a year-round shelter and hopes to use Measure H funds to do so.

“It takes money, community involvement and city collaboration,” she said. “There are so many moving pieces.”

According to Mayor Cameron Smyth, there is a margin of error with homeless counts and said Santa Clarita’s is no exception. Whatever the number of homeless people is, Smyth said, the purpose of his ad hoc committee on homelessness will aim to provide additional services to the city’s homeless population.

“Regardless of the number, we realize there is a homeless need here in Santa Clarita,” Smyth said.

Homelessness was most prevalent in the area among the Hispanic/Latino community with 3,702. Among white people, there were 2,145 homeless and 1,298 who were Black/African American. Additionally, there were 180 who were multiracial, 70 who were Asian, 50 who were American Indian/ Alaska Native and 17 who were Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander.

The Hispanic/Latino population increased 50 percent and the Black/African American population increased 20 percent. Homelessness among white people decreased 21 percent.

Males comprised 63 percent of the area’s homeless population with 4,672 and women made up 37 percent with 2,762. Of those surveyed, 24 homeless people in the area identify as transgender.

In the planning area, there were 2,177 people who were chronically homeless and 399 who were veterans. Those with a developmental disability increased by 46 percent to 337 total people.

Los Angeles County District 5, which Santa Clarita is part of, experienced a 26 percent increase in its homeless population from 6,130 to 7,735. This is the second highest percentage increase, second only to District 1. However, District 5 has the second smallest number of homeless people of the five districts.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the specific data for homelessness in each city will be released in mid-July.


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