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The homeless rehousing system has shown a strong performance in the past year despite the profound challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the results of the 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority on July 21.
In her presentation, Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA, said the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives through unprecedented coordination and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding.
The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options, she said. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to 1 to 1.
Outside of the rehousing system, all stakeholders must work together to reverse the decades of policy decisions that created the homelessness crisis and have disproportionately affected Black people, Marston said.
“Our rehousing system’s response to COVID saved lives because of unprecedented coordination across sectors and an influx of state and federal emergency funding,” she added. “We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness.”
The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.
Through the Housing Inventory Count, LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same time period.
LAHSA reported the results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply. In accordance with CDC guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression. However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity.
LAHSA and its partners also carried out the Shelter Count – a census of people in shelter at a point-in-time. The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year.
Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the count each year. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.
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