Skid Row in Los Angeles (photo: Eric Richardson, Blogdowntown)
Los Angeles has worked hard to facilitate the gentrification of its downtown, Venice and other low-income, no-income pockets the past couple of years, and its success can be measured in many ways.
One of those gauges not favored by the city is the homeless count, which has grown 11.7% since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). The homeless rate grew at a slightly higher pace, 12.4%, for the entire county. The count does not include Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach.
A biennial homeless survey, conducted in three days across 90% of the county by 5,500 volunteers, found 25,686 homeless folks in the city and 44,359 in the county in 2015. More than 70% are unsheltered.
Perhaps the most stunning number was an 85% increase in the number of tents, makeshift shelters and vehicles. But heightened visibility hasn’t engendered a greater response from the non-homeless public.
“The city and county have done such a terribly poor job of creating affordable housing, basically they've ignored the issue,” Steve Clare, executive director of the Venice Community Housing, told the Los Angeles Times.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said that ending homelessness in the city is one of his top priorities and vowed to get all the homeless veterans off the street. They are still there, although it is one of the few categories that showed a decline, 6% countywide, but that left 4,400 still scuffing around.
A report last month from the L.A. city administrative officer found that most of the $100 million Los Angeles spends annually on the homeless is for policing services, not assistance to the homeless. That report was commissioned by the city council after the estimated homeless population grew 9% in two years, while homeless advocates complained bitterly about the city’s lack of engagement.
“There appears to be no consistent process across city departments for dealing with the homeless or with homeless encampments,” the report stated. And it pointed out that LAHSA, the go-to agency for city and county homeless intervention, has just 19 people and a tiny budget.
Nearly a third of the homeless folks surveyed are chronically homeless and about the same number have a history of mental illness. A fourth have substance-abuse issues, 21% have been involved in domestic violence and nearly 21% have a physical disability.
The increase in homelessness was not uniform across the county. It leaped 47% in East L.A. County, 39% in the South Bay and 33% in the northern Antelope Valley. West L.A. was up 17%, followed by Metro L.A. (12%), San Gabriel Valley (11%), San Fernando Valley (8%) and South L.A. (7%).
The report cites wage stagnation and soaring rents as major factors in increased homelessness.