Rising homeless population in Los Angeles putting strain on city agencies

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- More and more, the homeless are making themselves at home in L.A.'s public places. Problems related to that population are putting a strain on city agencies.

The latest numbers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority show roughly 50,000 people are considered to be homeless in the LA area.

"The homeless program in Los Angeles today at three in the morning is too oftentimes the fire department and the police department," said LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

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Moore says homeless-related calls to police this year have stayed flat with last year. But over the past five to six years his department has seen a dramatic rise in calls for service.

"What we really need is a tremendous, continued expansion of our mental health services, of shelter space, of safe parking locations," Moore said.

It's not just police and fire departments noticing the rise in L.A.'s homeless population.

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Many people who live and work in Los Angeles see this not just as a safety issue, but a health problem as well.

An exclusive Eyewitness News poll conducted by Survey USA shows a whopping 68% of Southern Californians consider homelessness here to be either a major problem or a crisis.

"When we compare our city to New York, they have just as many homeless but they're inside, in shelters. I think here in L.A. the hardest thing is supportive housing and we need to push those efforts," said Patterson, a La Puente resident.

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So, how do you fix the problem?

Los Angeles voters approved a $1.2 billion bond measure to pay for new homeless housing back in 2016. And the county followed suit in 2017 with a sales tax increase designed to fund homeless

But the tents and boxes and people on the streets continue to multiply.

"There's homeless people everywhere. They're all down the street. They're almost at every exit," said Anthony Johnson of La Verne.

Moore, meanwhile, says LAPD has become, more or less, a default call when it comes to homeless problems. He said in an emergency, often times the best number to call is the city's 311 number or the county's 211 number.

He said he hopes other agencies will step up to assist in dealing with the area's homelessness problem.

"I look forward to the day when outreach workers, mental health workers, shelter resources and other needs of the homeless community can be met," Moore said.
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