Brace for a Spike in Homelessness

DTLA—The annual Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority tally of people living without shelter is scheduled to be released this week. Members of the public should brace themselves: A year after the county recorded 53,195 homeless individuals, and despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent to address homelessness, the crisis may well be getting worse.

Potentially, a lot worse.

The signs of trouble are clear. As Los Angeles Downtown News reported last month, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recently offered a warning shot. Speaking at an event hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, he referenced economic factors that increasingly contribute to homelessness. He pointed out that more people are living in vehicles. He mentioned that the county has an affordable housing shortage of an astounding 560,000 units.

For Mark Ridley-Thomas, A Big Move, a Big Fight and a Big Warning

Then there are statistics cited by LAHSA itself. A May 17 tweet was simple but stunning, detailing the rise in homelessness in counties throughout California. It mentioned a 17% spike in San Francisco, a 22% boost in Riverside County and a 28% increase in Ventura County. Orange County saw a 43% hike. In Kern County homelessness was up by 50%.

No one has leaked figures from the upcoming L.A. County Homeless Count, but the widespread belief is that Los Angeles is not immune to the trend coursing through the state.

People who spend time in Downtown won’t be surprised. The “eye test” indicates that more people than ever are sleeping on the streets. Almost every local resident or worker regularly decries the spread of tent encampments.

Homelessness Dips in 2018

If there is any sense of hope, it’s that city and county leaders now work together and understand that this truly is an emergency. Additionally, voters have approved measures to pay for housing and homeless services, and the state is dedicating more money to the matter. There is also a growing understanding that there are no quick fixes, and that getting someone off the streets requires intense and sustained outreach.

We’ll know more, potentially including responses, soon. But L.A. should prepare for a difficult situation.

Copyright 2019 Los Angeles Downtown News