In a regression from last year’s decrease, Los Angeles County’s homeless population spiked to nearly 59,000 this year, based on the results of the county’s annual homeless count.
“It is the height of contradiction that in the midst of great prosperity across the Golden State, we are also seeing unprecedented increases in homelessness,” L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement before the board’s June 4 meeting, where the results were unveiled. “It is simply not golden for everyone.”
The county total from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s annual point-in-time count, conducted this year from Jan. 22-24, represents a 12% increase from last year. The homeless count in the city of Los Angeles increased to 36,300, 16% more than last year. The count jumped 15% to 16,401 in the county’s metro Los Angeles subdivision, which includes downtown L.A., Hollywood, West Hollywood, Miracle Mile and the Fairfax District.
Scott Epstein, chair of the Mid City West Community Council, said the increases are “terribly disappointing but not completely surprising.”
He mentioned the housing issues, including an affordable housing deficit exceeding 500,000 units, that have exacerbated the crisis.
“I hope it’s a wakeup call to our city leaders,” Epstein said.
The county has eight total subdivisions, known as service planning areas. The numbers don’t include the cities of Long Beach, Pasadena and Glendale, which hold their own homeless counts.
Among the city of L.A.’s 15 council districts, the 14th District, which includes Skid Row, remains No. 1 in terms of homeless population, with 7,896. The 4th District, represented by City Councilman David Ryu, experienced the largest percentage increase of homeless individuals (up 53% from 2018), but ranks 11 of 15 with a total count of 1,187.
Echoing the concerns of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Ryu said more protections for renters and housing policy reform in Sacramento will be required to curtail the number of residents forced into homelessness.
“It’s unfortunate that it took decades to get to this point,” Ryu said, referring to the heightened sense of urgency by government agencies and local residents.
The councilman recalled a time when many residents thought homelessness was mostly confined to areas such as Venice Beach and Hollywood.
“It was almost out of sight, out of mind,” Ryu said. “People didn’t really think it was a problem when it was a severe problem.”
LAHSA announced that there were more than 21,000 homeless people housed last year through its system. In 2018, the city and county homeless counts dropped a few percentage points from the year before, generating optimism that two voter-approved ballot measures that provide funding for homeless housing and services were starting to turn the tide. But the high rents and stagnant wages fueling the crisis have hindered progress.
“It’s critical that we work with local communities 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,” Peter Lynn, executive director of the Homeless Services Authority, said in a statement before Tuesday’s county supervisors meeting.
The 13th District, represented by City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, was one of three council districts where fewer homeless people were counted this year compared to 2018, although it was lower by 13 people. The other two were the San Fernando Valley-based districts represented by Councilwomen Nury Martinez and Monica Rodriguez.
O’Farrell, chair of the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, also reiterated LAHSA’s call for housing policy reforms to address the causes of homelessness. He mentioned the California Environmental Quality Act, which has led to frivolous lawsuits that have stymied new development in his district, and Costa Hawkins, which prohibits rent control on newer units, as two of the biggest drivers of the crisis.
“I don’t think it will take decades to get us out,” O’Farrell said. “It’s a simple formula: We need better paying jobs, we need lower rent.”
Councilman Paul Koretz’s 5th District experienced a 23% increase in its homeless count, rising to 1,087 and placing 12th among all council districts. Koretz was not available for comment before press time.
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