Housing | June 21, 2018

The 2018 L.A. Homeless Count: the Good, the Bad and the Way Forward

Over three days and nights in January, 8,600 Angelenos took to the streets to do their part in combating the county’s homelessness crisis. From Pacoima to San Pedro, these dedicated volunteers visited shelters and street corners to count how many of our neighbors are experiencing homelessness as part of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. The count provides more than just a snapshot of homelessness in Los Angeles. It offers the first indications of the progress made by Measure H and Proposition HHH, two recent ballot measures that represent the largest investment in fighting homelessness in L.A. history. Released this month, the results contain good news and bad news about the size and makeup of our homeless population. Taken together, they paint a cautiously optimistic picture and underscore the need for all of us to come together to end this crisis. The Good News:
  • The total number of homeless Angelenos has fallen for the first time since 2014. This year, L.A.’s homeless population fell by 3% to just over 53,000. While that may not sound like a huge decrease, it shows that public and private investments in combating homelessness are making a difference. The needle is finally moving in the right direction.
  • The number of chronically homeless individuals fell by 16%. Chronically homeless individuals are those who suffer from a disabling physical or mental condition and have experienced homelessness over the long-term. Proposition HHH and Measure H address this population through supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with healthcare, case management and other services and has been shown to be the most effective solution to chronic homelessness. This year’s double-digit drop is a tribute to the power of this approach.
  • The number of chronically homeless veterans dropped by 18%. Reducing veteran homelessness has long been a priority of both the City and County of Los Angeles. Increased access to services and more veteran-specific supportive housing units have made a tremendous difference in how effectively we can serve this population, and the construction of new veteran-focused properties like Skid Row Housing Trust’s FLOR 401 Lofts will allow us to impact this number even further.
  • We are housing more people than ever. More than 16,000 homeless Angelenos were placed into housing in 2017, the highest year to date. And with thousands of new units being built with Proposition HHH funds set to come on line in the next few years, we will have the capacity to house many more going forward.
The Bad News
  • More of our neighbors experienced homelessness for the first time. More than 9,300 Angelenos had their first experience with homelessness in 2017. Nearly half cited job loss or other financial reasons as the reason they lost their homes. While supportive housing has allowed us to make an incredible impact over the past year, rising rents and stagnant wages are forcing individuals and families onto the streets in ever-growing numbers.
  • Our homeless population is getting older. While all other age groups saw a decrease in this year’s count, the number of senior citizens experiencing homelessness grew by more than 20%. Fixed incomes make this population an easy casualty of L.A.’s skyrocketing housing costs, and a higher likelihood of major medical issues makes life on the street more precarious for older adults.
  • Unlike the homelessness crisis, the housing crisis shows no signs of slowing. Since 2000, the median rent in Los Angeles has increased by more than 30%, while renter incomes have fallen by 3%. The housing supply has not kept up with demand, and by 2035, it is estimated that we will need an additional 624,000 units, more than 250,000 of which must be affordable for lower-income residents.
Amid the good news and the bad news, one thing is clear. There is much more that needs to be done. At the California Community Foundation, we understand that there is no way to truly address our current crisis without expanding the supply of affordable and supportive housing. Achieving this means not just funding new developments but improving policies and processes so more housing can be built with fewer roadblocks. This year, we’re focusing on:
  • Encouraging policymakers to streamline the process of building affordable and supportive housing
  • Promoting government approval of and overcoming neighborhood resistance to the construction of affordable and supportive housing projects
  • Investing in new supportive and affordable housing development through financing and loans
But we are only one organization. Every single L.A. resident can play a role in ending our homelessness crisis once and for all. There are many ways you can get involved.
  • Connect – Join with tens of thousands of committed Angelenos who are organizing to combat homelessness and making their voices head through the United Way’s Everyone In campaign.
  • Advocate – Let your representatives know you support new supportive and affordable housing projects in your neighborhood.
  • Educate – Counteract myths about homelessness and teach your neighbors about the power and potential of supportive housing in your neighborhood.
  • Give – Support programs like the Home L.A. Fund that work to preserve and expand the supply of supportive and affordable housing.
Next January, thousands of volunteers will once again give their time and effort to document the state of homelessness in Los Angeles. What they discover will depend on us. To learn more about the California Community Foundation’s work to combat homelessness in Los Angeles County, visit calfund.org/homela.

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