L.A. County Set to Release Homeless Numbers

US-CALIFORNIA-HOMELESSNESS-SKID ROW

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County officials are set today to release the results of the latest point-in-time count of homeless individuals, with all indications that the numbers will be up significantly.

Even the lowest double digit increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County would mean another 5,000 people without housing. Last year's final tally calculated 52,765 homeless individuals countywide, with nearly three-quarters of those living in cars, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Executive Director Peter Lynn is expected to present the results and related insights to the Board of Supervisors, along with a discussion of “the increased reach and effectiveness of the homeless services system and the economic forces that are continuing to push people into homelessness.”

While awaiting the release, the board has 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 dollars and interim shelter has been provided for thousands more.

But more and more people are falling into homelessness, based on numbers reported by neighboring jurisdictions, including Orange County, which announced a 43 percent jump in homelessness.

As it increases its commitment to the problem, Los Angeles County is adding strategies geared toward economic factors. When the board approved $460 million in Measure H spending on homelessness three weeks ago, it focused on finding ways to offset rising rental rates and provide opportunities for steady employment through an employment task force and jobs training program.

L.A. County submitted the results of the one-time count to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on April 30, but Lynn said the data needed to be refined based on HUD's review and additional analysis before going public. Both the scale of the problem and the quantity and quality of data gathered here dwarfs that of other counties. A report by USC researchers that simply describes the methodology used by L.A. County runs to 143 pages.

When the release of the results, originally scheduled for May 31, was delayed two business days, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, a longtime vocal critic of the county and city officials, accused authorities of holding back data in an effort to manage public reaction.

“This allows Mayor Garcetti, (the) City Council and the Board of Supervisors time to spin away their outdated, expensive and clearly ineffectual response to the homeless crisis,” Weinstein said in a statement last Thursday.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told City News Service that the delay was designed to ensure that LAHSA could deliver reliable information to taxpayers.

“No spin here," Ridley-Thomas said, explaining that it's important to pin down the numbers as precisely as possible “so that we have credible numbers in service to transparency and accountability.”

Weinstein's complaints include developments without sufficient set- asides for affordable units, the high cost per unit of affordable projects and the city's declining to repurpose Parker Center as housing for homeless individuals.

County officials have backed a bill to speed conversions of motels into supportive housing units and is considering housing homeless veterans at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall downtown, among other local efforts to increase the amount of shelter space, bridge housing and permanent supportive housing units.

The county has also put a 3 percent cap on rental increases in unincorporated areas and is backing statewide legislation to limit rents and prevent landlords from unjustly evicting tenants. However, California voters rejected a 2018 proposal to give local governments more latitude to enact rent controls.

Photo: Getty Images

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