Background: An imperfect annual snapshot.
The increase in Los Angeles mirrors trends playing out in cities across the country, including Phoenix, as a housing shortage leads to rising costs, squeezing families.
A recent study Led by an expert on homelessness at the University of California, San Francisco, it found that the main driver of homelessness in California is not mental illness or substance abuse, but a lack of affordable housing.
Point-in-time counts of people living outdoors or in homeless shelters are conducted everywhere in the country and are federally mandated to occur at least annually. In Los Angeles, volunteers spend a couple of nights each January counting people living outdoors or in vehicles. Homeless service providers conduct surveys to obtain more detailed demographic information.
Across the country, local governments and their data collection partners release their numbers at different times, so not all cities have yet provided their 2023 figures. Washington DCIt has already been reported to have increased by 11 percent Phoenix area Its homeless population increased by 7 percent. Chicago New York says its homeless population has grown in the past year due to an influx of asylum seekers; New York officials said Wednesday that more than 100,000 people are living in homeless shelters for the first time.
While point-in-time counts are an imperfect snapshot of homelessness, the number in Los Angeles County, the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area, is one of the few ways to measure progress in addressing the county’s worst problem. Its housing crisis has evolved into a complex and persistent humanitarian emergency in recent decades.
Why it matters: LA is a test case for addressing homelessness.
Los Angeles is not the only American city struggling with homelessness, but its homeless population is disproportionately large, and about 30 percent of the nation’s homeless population lives in California. As a result, Los Angeles is a kind of large-scale test case for what solutions work and what don’t.
For years, local leaders and advocates have lamented the lack of urgency and coordination across Los Angeles working on homeless solutions, where the city and county have separate but overlapping governments.
At the peak of the epidemic, the sprawling encampments that sprang up under highway overpasses, in parks, on residential streets and on beaches became the most powerful symbols of the sense of chaos that pervaded the city. While some residents have called for the homeless to be forcibly removed from the streets, activists have opposed measures such as draconian curbs.
Mayor Karen Bass, a longtime community organizer and former member of Congress, was elected last year on a promise to quickly address a huge problem. She vowed to humanely move the thousands of people living in the camps, by spending more time before cleaning. The only way to achieve that goal, he says, is to improve communication between nonprofit groups and government agencies.
“The data collected in January reflects the crisis our city is facing,” he said. “The challenge ahead of us is enormous, but we will continue to work to bring Angelenos in.”
What’s next: Will recent progress mean less homelessness next year?
Dr. Adams Kellum noted that this year’s count took place a month after Ms Bass took office, and in the months since, the mayor’s efforts have “shown more success”.
Ms. Bass recently highlighted that her administration brought in 14,381 people in the first six months of her tenure. He has also proposed to speed up the construction of affordable houses.
But whether that work will actually reduce the number of people struggling with homelessness remains to be seen. Next year’s numbers will take more stakes for his administration.