Homeless count surges by 12 percent in Los Angeles County, according to results delivered to Board of Supervisors

ByAnabel Munoz, Rob McMillan, and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Homeless count surges by 12% in L.A. County
Homelessness increased by 12% in L.A. County and 16% in the city of L.A. in 2019, according to the results of a count that was delivered to the Board of Supervisors.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Homelessness increased by 12% in Los Angeles County and 16% in the city of Los Angeles in 2019, according to the results of an annual count that was delivered to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The year-over-year increases reflected a homeless count of 58,936 countywide and 36,300 in the city.

By comparison, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported an approximate 4% decrease in homelessness in L.A. County last year.

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The authority's executive director, Peter Lynn, gave a presentation at the Board of Supervisors' meeting in which he provided an overview of the new numbers.

"We have the largest unsheltered population in the nation and one of the largest homeless counts across America. Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night," Lynn noted.

According to LAHSA's data, nearly 75% of the homeless live in vehicles, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

After the board received the results of the annual count, conducted by some 8,000 volunteers over a three-day period in January, Supervisor Janice Hahn described homelessness in the county as a "crisis" that "took decades to create."

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"We knew it wouldn't be solved overnight, but that doesn't mean these latest numbers aren't disheartening," Hahn said. "Even though our data shows we are housing more people than ever, it is hard to be optimistic when that progress is overwhelmed by the number of people falling into homelessness."

While awaiting the release, the board had stressed its success in moving tens of thousands of people off the streets. The latest figures available from the county's Homeless Initiative indicate that more than 27,000 people have been permanently housed since July 2017 with Measure H and other public funds and temporary shelter has been provided for thousands of others.

L.A. County's homeless count fares far better than surrounding areas. Ventura County was up 28%, Orange County saw a 43% rise and Kern County increased a whopping 50%.

Meantime, many advocates for the homeless say there are solutions, if only local government would be more pro-active.

Los Angeles homeless advocates say adaptive reuse of buildings is a good solution to the growing problem.

Detric Clinton is a new tenant in a newly renovated hotel, built back in 1906, now on the edge of skid row. Advocates' faster answer to getting people off the street is adaptive reuse of places like the former King Edward Hotel.