'Catastrophic:' Chronic homelessness in LA County expected to skyrocket by 86% in next 4 years

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new economic forecast is pointing toward a distressing increase in homelessness across the state of California and especially in Los Angeles County.

The non-profit organization Economic Roundtable this week released its latest report, titled "Locked Out," which uses data from the 2008 recession to predict how bad the pandemic-induced recession will affect the homeless population.

"It looks like the impacts could be twice as bad as they were in 2008," said Dan Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable. "This recession is particularly bad because it's hitting vulnerable workers harder than the last recession."

Most alarming is the predicted jump in chronic homelessness, which refers to people who live on the street for extended periods of time.

Currently, L.A. County counts roughly 15,000 chronically homeless individuals. Over the next four years, the forecast calls for that number to nearly double.

"Our unhappy forecast is that it could go up by 86%," Flaming told Eyewitness News. "That would be catastrophic for us."

LA's homeless crisis worsened by COVID-19 pandemic, as shelter space squeezed
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"It's like playing chess with a monster genius." Just as homelessness is increasing, the COVID-19 pandemic is squeezing space from local shelters.

The county's overall homeless population, which includes so-called "couch surfers" and others who bounce in and out of homelessness, is currently hovering around 66,000. The Economic Roundtable forecast pegs that number at 89,760 by 2023, a 36% increase.

Heading off large increases in homelessness has been a major task for the City of Los Angeles, but expensive programs promising to build housing units have had little to no effect on the homeless numbers.

L.A. City Councilman Kevin DeLeon is pushing a new program to build even more homes for those on the street called the "25 by 25" proposal.

He says the ambitious program "sets Los Angeles on a path to build 25,000 housing units or adaptive reuse, by the year 2025."

But the Economic Roundtable says the best solution is for the government to take a Roosevelt-like approach and start a job creation program, one that puts people to work so they can earn money and be able to afford a home.
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