A homeless encampment that was erected inside private property in the hills behind the 23600 block of Diamond Place. Cory Rubin/The Signal

County unveils homeless numbers

Despite continual county efforts to curb the slide of citizens into homelessness, the latest report released Tuesday shows the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County jumped by 12% over last year.

The county’s 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, reported having the lowest number of unsheltered homeless people compared to the other districts, according to the report prepared by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

While Los Angeles County saw a 12% increase in the number of homeless people compared to last year, the 5th District saw an 8% increase.

And, while the 4th and 5th districts reported about the same number of homeless people this year as in 2018, the 5th District reported 1,803 homeless individuals, with 710 in the 4th District.

Kathryn Barger, 5th District supervisor, pointed out during discussion of the report at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday that it will take more than money to solve the ongoing problem of homelessness.

“I don’t think that money alone is going to solve the problem,” Barger told the board.

“The bigger issue is identifying the root cause,” she said. “Until we address what that is, we will continue to put our finger in the dike.

“In the interim, we will increase our focus on public health and mental health through effective outreach methods, particularly for the hardest-to-reach populations,” she said.

The breakdown of homeless statistics at the city level are expected to be released in the next couple of weeks, said Jerrid McKenna, assistant to the city manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

Tuesday’s report presented to the Board of Supervisors also contained some positive news on the homeless front.

10-year investment

Two years into a 10-year investment with Measure H, L.A.’s homeless services system is preventing and ending homelessness for more people than ever before.
Researchers pointed out in their report, however, that despite the positive steps forward made possible with Measure H, the housing crisis and economic disparities are pushing more people into homelessness.

There were 58,936 homeless people in the county this year, compared to 52,765 counted last year.

While the 5th District saw an 8% rise, the city of Los Angeles saw a 16% rise with 36,300 homeless.

“The increase in the homeless count strongly suggests that money alone will not solve this problem,” said Barger. “The county has invested over $700 million of Measure H to address the homelessness crisis, with another $460 million anticipated in the coming year.  

“Much of the demographic data generated by the homeless count to date is through self-reporting, but new tools around predictive analytics will soon provide concrete data on the homeless population, including interactions with county systems, which will help us get to the root cause of this crisis,” she said.

Homeless profile

According to the report, the homeless crisis response system helped 21,631 people move into permanent housing over the course of last year — 40% of last year’s count number, and a number that would end homelessness in most American cities and even states.

Ninety-two percent of the people placed in permanent housing through the system in 2016 and 2017 remained housed through the end of 2018 and did not return to homelessness, according to the report.

“Our ability to reach, serve and house people experiencing homelessness has risen enormously since voters made unprecedented investments in our homeless services system in 2016 and 2017,” said Peter Lynn, executive director of LAHSA.

“And at the same time, our regional housing affordability crisis continues to drive thousands into homelessness. It’s critical that we work with local community members and every level of government to increase affordable housing, limit rent increases, and prevent unjust evictions while we continue to scale up and refine our system.”

The report also noted:

  • The number of veterans decreased slightly (3,874) after housing a number equivalent to two-thirds the number counted in 2018. A larger investment at the federal level in resources for homeless veterans than any other population prevented a rise. Expanded cooperation between the VA and LAHSA will improve services to veterans.
  • Family numbers went up 6.4%. Expanded rapid re-housing and interim housing have made a difference. Expanded funding of prevention and crisis resources will keep more families housed.
  • Youth homelessness rose 24% — in part because of improvements in counting this population. Rapid re-housing saw two-thirds of exits to permanent housing. Programs for transition-age youth grew, and partnerships with the community college system, the Probation Department, and the Department of Children and Family Services are all helping.
  • The number of chronically homeless people went up 17%. Non-chronic single adults are the least-resourced population, and many aged into chronic status. New resources for housing construction, mental health services, and case management will help this population.
  • The number of seniors 62 and older rose 8.2%, markedly less than the overall rise. New senior shelter beds, focused outreach and strategic partnerships, and targeted temporary rental subsidies are helping seniors.
  • The numbers of people in tents and makeshift shelters rose 17% and the number of people in vehicles rose 5%. These often indicate first-time homelessness. The system has increased outreach staff, including clinical experts, as well as more intensive field-based services for those with serious mental illness. An increased interim housing inventory and an expanded Safe Parking program will provide further assistance here.

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