L.A. says homelessness dropped slightly this year

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Los Angeles has announced a notable decline in its homeless population for the first time in several years, just as the Supreme Court ruled it’s not cruel and unusual punishment to prevent people from sleeping on public property.

New data shows a miniscule reduction in homelessness over the past six years. The overall homeless population decreased by 2.2 percent, which includes individuals who have found temporary lodging with relatives, friends, or housing providers. Additionally, there was a 10.4 percent drop in the number of people sleeping in cars, on the streets and in tents.

This report comes after the implementation of Mayor Karen Bass’s “Inside Safe” initiative, a program launched in 2022 to reduce homeless encampments by relocating individuals to hotels. The program, funded by taxpayers, costs approximately $17,009 per person each month. In April, Mayor Bass proposed a $185 million allocation for Inside Safe in the city budget, following a previous budget of $250 million.

“For many years, the count has shown increases in homelessness, impacting our neighborhoods. We leaned into change and altered the trajectory of this crisis, moving L.A. in a new direction,” Bass said.

She further expressed gratitude to the City Council, the County Board of Supervisors, LAHSA, state, federal, and community partners, and service providers for their collaborative efforts. “This is not the end; it is the beginning, and we will continue to build on this progress together,” she said.

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TROUBLE AT LAHSA

Over the past decade, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has faced several critiques regarding its handling of the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, encompassing issues related to efficiency, transparency, coordination, and effectiveness.

One major critique is inefficiency and bureaucracy. LAHSA has been criticized for its slow and cumbersome processes, which have hindered the swift implementation of programs and services for the homeless. Critics argue that the agency’s bureaucratic nature delays aid to those in urgent need, preventing timely and effective intervention.

Transparency has been another significant issue. Stakeholders and the public have expressed frustration over the lack of clear communication regarding how funds are allocated and spent. This opacity has led to questions about accountability and the effectiveness of LAHSA’s strategies, as the public and other organizations struggle to understand the agency’s decision-making processes.

Coordination failures have also plagued LAHSA. Despite the large scale of the homelessness problem, the agency has been accused of failing to effectively coordinate with other government agencies, nonprofits, and community organizations. This lack of coordination has sometimes resulted in duplicated efforts or gaps in services, undermining the overall impact of homelessness initiatives.

The insufficient impact of LAHSA’s efforts has been a persistent critique. Despite significant funding and numerous initiatives, the homeless population has continued to grow, suggesting that LAHSA’s strategies may be ineffective or misaligned. Critics highlight that, despite increased spending, the expected reductions in homelessness have not materialized, calling into question the effectiveness of the agency’s approach.

Emergency responses have been another area of concern. The agency has faced criticism for its emergency response capabilities, particularly during crises such as extreme weather conditions or the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics argue that LAHSA has been slow to mobilize resources and provide necessary shelter and support during emergencies, leaving vulnerable populations at risk.

There has been significant critique regarding LAHSA’s focus on temporary shelters over permanent housing solutions. Critics argue that without a greater emphasis on long-term housing options, the agency’s efforts will only provide temporary relief rather than sustainable solutions. This approach is seen as insufficient in addressing the root causes of homelessness and providing lasting stability for those in need.

Data and reporting issues have also been a point of contention. LAHSA has been critiqued for the accuracy and reliability of its data on homelessness. Inconsistent or flawed data collection and reporting have made it difficult to measure the true scope of homelessness and the effectiveness of programs. This lack of reliable data hampers efforts to develop informed policies and allocate resources effectively.

Public perception and community relations have been challenging for LAHSA as well. The agency’s relationship with the communities it serves has been strained at times, with community members feeling that their concerns and insights were not adequately considered in the planning and implementation of homelessness services. This disconnect has fueled dissatisfaction and resistance to LAHSA’s initiatives in some neighborhoods.

Resource allocation has been another critical issue. Some argue that funds are not being directed towards the most effective programs or those that address the root causes of homelessness. The perceived misallocation of resources has led to calls for a reassessment of funding priorities to ensure that money is spent where it can have the greatest impact.

THE DATA

The release of Los Angeles’s data coincided with the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of an Oregon town’s law that bans homeless individuals from sleeping outdoors. The court determined that regulating camping on public property does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” Governor Gavin Newsom praised the decision, as it provides California with more power to manage encampments. The ruling overturned a prior decision by a San Francisco court that had found penalizing homeless encampments unconstitutional.

California holds over a third of the nation’s homeless population, with homelessness rising 53 percent since 2013. While Los Angeles has reported a decrease, other California cities continue to see an increase in homeless populations. San Francisco’s homeless numbers have grown, and Orange County is experiencing a similar trend.

In contrast to Los Angeles’s declining numbers, the state’s overall homelessness issue persists, highlighting the varying impacts of regional policies and initiatives.

The 2024 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), provides critical data to inform local, state, and national policies aimed at ending homelessness. The count, reviewed and validated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is essential for understanding the scale and dynamics of homelessness in the region.

The Point-In-Time (PIT) count is a comprehensive survey that includes a visual tally, demographic surveys, and data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). The count is designed with the help of data experts from the University of Southern California (USC) and follows guidelines from HUD to ensure accuracy. Despite its thoroughness, it remains an estimate due to the inherent challenges in counting unhoused populations.

In 2024, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County slightly decreased by 0.27 percent, while the City of Los Angeles saw a 2.2 percent reduction. The count indicated a drop in unsheltered homelessness by 5.1 percent countywide and a 10.4 percent decrease in the City of Los Angeles. Conversely, the number of sheltered individuals rose by 12.7 percent in the county and 17.7 percent in the city.

Homelessness trends varied across different Service Planning Areas (SPAs). SPA 1 (Antelope Valley) experienced a significant increase in homelessness, with the total count rising from 4,686 in 2023 to 6,672 in 2024. SPA 2 (San Fernando Valley) saw a slight increase in the total number of homeless individuals, from 10,443 to 10,701. SPA 3 (San Gabriel Valley) reported a minor decrease, with the count dropping from 5,009 to 4,843. SPA 4 (Metro) had a marginal decrease in the total homeless population, going from 18,531 to 18,389. SPA 5 (West) observed a notable reduction, with the count decreasing from 6,669 to 5,383. SPA 6 (South) saw a slight increase, from 12,995 to 13,886. SPA 7 (East) experienced a small decrease, from 6,511 to 5,899. SPA 8 (South Bay) reported a significant reduction in homelessness, with the count dropping from 6,476 to 5,428.

The demographic breakdown revealed that Black, African American, or African individuals comprise 31 percent of the homeless population, highlighting ongoing racial disparities. Economic hardship was the primary cause of homelessness for 54 percent of newly homeless individuals, followed by weakened social networks at 38 percent, disabling health conditions at 17 percent, system discharge at 14 percent, violence at 4 percent, and other reasons at 10 percent. These reasons are self-reported by individuals experiencing homelessness.

LAHSA’s rehousing efforts showed progress, with an all-time high number of permanent housing placements recorded in 2023. The number of placements increased from 14,252 in 2017 to 27,300 in 2023. The efficiency of the rehousing system improved, with a 50 percent increase in street-to-interim housing placements and a 25 percent increase in transitions from interim to permanent housing.

The coordinated efforts to resolve encampments led to a significant decrease in makeshift shelters by 30.54 percent. The overall number of individuals living in cars, vans, RVs, tents, and makeshift shelters decreased by 9.17 percent, from 23,438 in 2023 to 21,288 in 2024. This drop includes a 5.33 percent decrease in people living in cars, an 11.24 percent decrease in those living in vans, a 0.59 percent increase in those living in RVs, a 1.42 percent decrease in those living in tents, and a 30.54 percent decrease in makeshift shelters.

There was a 6.8 percent drop in chronic homelessness, attributed to the improved coordinated response. The total number of chronically homeless individuals decreased from 31,991 in 2023 to 29,823 in 2024, with the unsheltered chronically homeless population dropping by 9.4 percent and the sheltered population increasing by 7.5 percent.

The count revealed varying trends among different groups. Homelessness among families increased by 2.2 percent, with the total count rising from 10,477 in 2023 to 10,710 in 2024. Transitional Age Youth (TAY) homelessness decreased by 16.2 percent, with the count dropping from 2,871 to 2,406. Veteran homelessness saw a significant reduction of 22.9 percent, with the total number decreasing from 3,878 to 2,991.

Serious mental illness (SMI) and substance use disorder (SUD) remain prevalent among the homeless population. In 2024, 22 percent of unhoused individuals reported experiencing SMI, compared to 25 percent in 2023. The total number of individuals with SMI decreased from 15,994 to 15,666. Substance use disorder was reported by 24 percent of unhoused individuals in 2024, down from 30 percent in 2023. The total number of individuals with SUD decreased from 19,361 to 17,248.

Unaffordable rents continue to be a major driver of homelessness. The average rent for a two-bedroom home in Los Angeles County is $2,498, requiring an hourly wage of $48.04 to afford. Nearly 495,000 households in the county do not have access to affordable housing. Building permits in California dropped by 7 percent in 2023, and there were 33 percent fewer multifamily housing permits pulled in January and February 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

Eviction filings in Los Angeles reached a decade-high in 2023, with 96 percent of notices citing non-payment of rent. The average amount of rent owed was $3,774. From February to December 2023, 77,049 eviction notices were filed, with 91 percent including a three-day notice to pay rent or quit.

LAHSA has established five strategic areas of focus to address homelessness: addressing the emergency, improving rehousing system efficiency, enhancing LAHSA’s purpose, accountability, and transparency, optimizing contracting and grant management, and promoting equity. These strategic priorities aim to improve the rehousing system’s efficiency, increase the number of people moving from street to interim housing by 20 percent, and boost the number of people connected to permanent housing from interim housing by 20 percent.

The community is encouraged to participate in efforts to end homelessness by focusing on unified responses, addressing unsheltered homelessness, and becoming data-driven. Collaborative efforts among stakeholders, supported by research from institutions like UCLA, USC, California Policy Lab, and UCSF, are crucial for making progress. The introduction of new system dashboards and adherence to Assembly Bill 977 are also key components in driving performance and tracking progress.

The 2024 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count shows a slight overall reduction in homelessness, with significant improvements in certain areas and demographic groups. Continued collaboration, data-driven approaches, and strategic focus are essential to sustaining and accelerating progress in ending homelessness in Los Angeles. The findings underscore the importance of addressing economic factors, improving rehousing efforts, and maintaining a coordinated response to this persistent crisis.

The data continues to show that historic exclusionary racist policies still result in a disproportionate amount of Black people experiencing homelessness, comprising 31 percent of the homeless population. Latinos remain the largest ethnic group experiencing homelessness, representing 43 percent of the total when including those who identify as Hispanic/Latino alone or in combination with another category.

In 2023, the rehousing system recorded an all-time high number of permanent housing placements, with a total of 27,300 placements. This increase reflects the effectiveness of coordinated efforts and emergency responses. LAHSA’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) show that people are moving through the rehousing system faster, with a 47 percent increase in street-to-interim housing placements and a 25 percent increase in transitions from interim to permanent housing.

Eviction filings reached a decade-high locally in June 2023. Between February and December 2023, in the City of Los Angeles, 77,049 eviction notices were filed, with 96 percent of eviction notices being for non-payment of rent. Ninety-one percent of these came with a three-day notice, and the average amount of rent owed was $3,774, according to the LA Controller’s Office.

LAHSA has approved goals aimed at improving the rehousing system’s efficiency. The agency aims to increase the number of people moving from street outreach to interim housing by 20 percent and from interim housing to permanent housing by 20 percent next year. This includes implementing new provider payment models, enhancing data transparency, and increasing efficiency through master leasing and other systemic changes.

The community’s efforts to end homelessness must focus on three priorities to make progress a trend: maintaining a unified response, concentrating on unsheltered homelessness, and becoming more data-driven. The 2024 results provide hope, but ongoing collaboration and data-driven efforts are essential to align actions and ultimately end the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.

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Joan Henehan
Joan Henehan
13 days ago

The US needs a national, comprehensive program to address homelessness in its various causes. Putting the economic burden on sunshine states is inequitable and it doesn’t address the roots of the issue, including wealth inequality, drug abuse, insufficient housing resources and mental illness.

resident
resident
13 days ago

There “may” have been a reduction in homelessness in LA–at a huge cost to taxpayers, but the crazy street people have increased exponentially in West Hollywood. Can’t walk half a block without stumbling over a body blocking the sidewalk. Shame on the city council for allowing this to go on!

Long Time Resident
Long Time Resident
13 days ago
Reply to  resident

What the hell do you think the Council can do about it? It isn’t a WeHo problem only..it is a statewide and national problem. The State government is the body that should be tackling the mental health issues that plague the homeless everywhere. It was the State that closed the mental hospitals. We need them back.

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