On June 12, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which showed 66,433 people in Los Angeles County experiencing homelessness. This represents a 12.7% rise from last year’s point-in-time count of 58,936. The city of Los Angeles saw a 13.6% rise to 41,290.
The report captures a picture of homelessness in Los Angeles County as it was in January, the time of this year’s homeless count, and before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic could be felt, measured or responded to through efforts such as Project Roomkey, rent freezes and eviction moratoriums.
“LAHSA does not like these numbers because we know firsthand that we have done so much to increase the effectiveness of our systems and bring tens of thousands of people inside,” said Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA. “This year’s results reinforce that our community must address the deep-rooted causes within larger safety net systems that stop people from falling into homelessness.”
“It’s no surprise that homelessness is increasing,” said Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, 4th District. “It will continue to increase until we tackle a system of poverty, racial injustice and unaffordability driving this crisis … The No. 1 goal of every level of government must be to support vulnerable people and to keep them housed. We must protect and expand our Housing and Economic & Workforce Development departments. We must build more affordable and moderate-income housing. We must protect tenants from eviction and repeal state laws like Costa Hawkins. Until poverty, inequity and racial justice become a priority in our society, homelessness will persist.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, 3rd District, pointed out that while local officials have “built a smart, sustainable and increasingly effective system to help men and women who are experiencing homelessness get back into housing and to help those who may be at risk of homelessness stay in their homes … we continue to struggle to reduce the total homeless population.” This is especially true of black Angelenos, of whom one in 33 will experience homelessness at some point, she said.
“We need half a million affordable homes that simply don’t exist, and the COVID-19 pandemic now threatens to make the conditions that force low-income men, women and families into homelessness even worse … All of us – elected officials, private sector and nonprofit leaders, and members of the public – should see [this] announcement as an urgent call to action.”
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin called the count results “tragic and utterly unacceptable.”
“Billions of dollars have been committed to address homelessness by the city and County of Los Angeles, yet we have far too little to show for the money or work. What we have is more people, more families, living on our streets in squalid conditions. Local governments and service providers must do better,” he said.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) said he was “angry and frustrated” about the results.
“We simply cannot keep doing the same things over and over and expect different outcomes. The system is broken. It needs to be blown up and rebuilt differently. The time has come to rip through the bureaucratic red tape and force the change we need. It is unacceptable that children, women, families, veterans and people of all backgrounds are living on the streets,” he said.
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