The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of the 2022 Homeless Count on Thursday, with the data showing that the total number of homeless residents living within L.A. County has continued to rise year after year.
The latest figures, which are an estimation based on “point-in-time” counts countywide in February, reveal that the estimated number of homeless people living throughout the county increased from 56,140 in 2020 to 66,144 in 2022 — a 4.1% increase over the last two years and a 31% increase over the last four. The percentage of those individuals living indoors in shelters increased from 28% to 30%.
Specifically, within the city of Santa Clarita, the total number of homeless residents was estimated to be 220. And while this represents an approximate 31% increase from 2020, the latest number seems to be in the middle of the pack in comparison to previous years. For example, the 2016 Santa Clarita count was estimated to be 289, while 158 homeless persons were reported in 2018.
Of those 192 Santa Clarita residents who were classified as “unsheltered,” an estimated 66 were on the street, 16% were in their cars, 15% in RVs or campers, 13% were in their tents, 11% in vans and nearly 9% in makeshift shelters. Of the 28 who were “sheltered,” 22 were living in emergency shelters and six were in transitional housing.
The long-awaited report garnered a mixture of reactions, with LAHSA leadership saying that the “plateauing” figures suggest the efficacy of recent housing and economic programs, while others used it as proof that L.A. County needs to do more in order to solve the ongoing crisis.
The 2022 Homeless Count, much like previous years, was compiled over a three-day period in February, with volunteers and county staff taking to the streets in their various communities and tallying those who were unsheltered or living in emergency housing.
In a statement issued alongside the report, Kristina Dixon, LAHSA’s acting co-executive director, said that while it was unclear what the numbers will mean in the long term, residents can look at the report as evidence that “necessary and effective” economic programs kept people in their homes.
Over the past five years, LAHSA and its partners have made 84,000 permanent housing placements and last year alone the rehousing system made 21,213 placements.
“If there’s one thing you take away from these results, I want you to see how policy and investments matter. Tenant protections and rental assistance helped people stay in their homes and out of homelessness,” said Molly Rysman, Dixon’s fellow co-executive director. “But now our community is in a precarious position. If these policies end, it is entirely possible that future homeless counts could show significant increases.” Among other things, the report stated that there had been a 17% increase in tents, vehicles and makeshift shelters on L.A. County’s streets and sidewalks from 2020 – but with fewer people in them.
However, while she agreed that more policy was needed in order to address the crisis, Supervisor Janice Hahn called the 2022 results “disheartening.”
“They are frustrating to the many people across this county who have dedicated years of their lives to addressing this crisis and they are frustrating to the taxpayers who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in solutions,” Hahn said in a statement distributed after the report was published. “This count may contain signs of progress, but no one is going to celebrate when there are this many people sleeping on our streets.”
L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement of her own that county officials and local leadership need to do more to “increase both beds and services” because the reported number of homeless residents, as well as the 39% of them who reportedly suffer from serious mental illness/substance abuse, are “guestimates, at best.”
“I think both of these numbers are much bigger than what’s being reported,” Barger said. “The California Policy Lab at UCLA, for example, found that the percentage of people experiencing mental health illness and substance abuse addiction is closer to 50%.”
“Although reducing homelessness may feel like a daunting task, I believe success is achievable if we tackle it by executing a thoughtful and methodical plan.”