Homelessness Rises In Los Angeles Amid Statewide Swell

The number of homeless people in the California city increased 16 percent from last year, part of a spike in homelessness across the state in recent years.

The number of people living in homelessness in Los Angeles increased significantly last year ― echoing a broader rise in people living unhoused across the state in recent years.

Los Angeles County saw a 12% increase in homeless residents from 2018 to 2019, according to new “point-in-time” count figures the LA Homeless Services Authority released Tuesday. There were nearly 59,000 homeless people in the county on a given night in January 2019 ― up from under 53,000 in 2018.

The vast majority of those who are homeless ― about two-thirds ― are in the city of Los Angeles, which counted over 36,000 homeless people this year, a 16% increase from last year.

Overall the figures show a dramatic 36% increase in homelessness since 2010 in the county.

“Shame on you!” yelled one audience member at the county board of supervisors meeting when the figures were announced.

Los Angeles’ figures follow even more disappointing ones from areas further north released last month: Homelessness spiked in the San Francisco Bay Area ― with the number of homeless people in San Francisco going up 17% and in Alameda County (which includes Oakland) up 43% since 2017.

“Any increase in homelessness is heartbreaking, and we can see with our own eyes ― on the streets of LA and cities across California ― that the crisis has tightened its grip around the lives of too many of our neighbors,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said in a statement to HuffPost. “These results remind us of a difficult truth: skyrocketing rents statewide and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with an epidemic of untreated trauma and mental illness, is pushing people into homelessness faster than they can be lifted out.”

People living homeless in tents on a street in downtown Los Angeles -- May 30, 2019.
People living homeless in tents on a street in downtown Los Angeles -- May 30, 2019.

California is at the forefront of the nation’s affordable housing crisis, with almost a quarter of the nation’s more than 500,000 people who were homeless in 2018 living in the state alone.

A person in Los Angeles earning the minimum wage of $13.25 per hour would need to work nearly 80 hours per week to afford renting a 1-bedroom apartment, per LA’s homeless services authority.

The vast majority of people living homeless in Los Angeles were “unsheltered” ― with about three-quarters living in vehicles, tents and other makeshift dwellings.

Garcetti noted that more than 21,000 people were housed in Los Angeles last year, and they plan to build more than 7,000 new housing units and open more than 2,000 shelter beds.

“We have the least affordable housing market in the United States,” Peter Lynn, executive director of LA’s Homeless Services Authority, said Tuesday, noting that many households in LA pay more than half their income in rent. “The pressures on Angelenos are severe.”

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