Homeless population in Los Angeles grew 10% despite city spending millions to fight the problem
07/03/2023 // Cassie B. // Views

The homeless problem in Los Angeles has grown significantly worse in the last year, with homelessness climbing 9 percent in the city and 10 percent in L.A. County. Around 75,000 people are now living on the streets there despite major investments by the city to stem the problem.

According to the count, which was carried out by a team of volunteers numbering in the thousands for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority across a three-day period, 75,518 individuals were living in either a makeshift shelter, tent, van, car, RV or interim housing; the figure a year earlier was 69,144. The increase was fully attributed to people living on the street rather than in shelters.

The biggest jumps were seen in the city’s Harbor and Westside areas, which each recorded rises of around 45 percent.

The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on shelters, outreach and permanent housing, but the problem continues to grow. Since 2015, homelessness has skyrocketed by 80 percent in the city and 70 percent in the county.

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Chief Executive Va Lecia Adams Kellum said that the results were disappointing but not surprising, adding: “We thought with last year’s numbers that we were flattening the curve. However, what we see in this trajectory is that people remain in a situation of vulnerability where they’re falling into homelessness faster than we can house them.

“There’s much more needed to right the ship.”

She cited economics as the main driving factor, pointing to a study by the University of California San Francisco that showed that among individuals who had leases prior to becoming homeless, an income drop was the top reason for losing housing.

Black people accounted for nearly a third of Los Angeles homeless residents, which is more than four times their share of the county’s overall population. Latinos made up 43 percent after a sharp rise last year. Asian homeless people more than doubled but only account for 2 percent of the overall total.

West L.A. Homeless Executive Vice President Margaret Gillespie explained that the pandemic contributed to the city’s homelessness problem. She said: “I deal with folks pretty regularly, folks who were employed before COVID and lost their jobs and have struggled to get back on their feet. People don’t realize that once you fall into the pit of homelessness, it’s very hard to dig out of it.”

City leaders vow to keep fighting, but investments are not paying off

Los Angeles City Council approved $7.8 million to fund in-patient substance abuse treatment in hopes of helping people get back on their feet. Mayor Karen Bass has stated she’ll recommend devoting $1.3 billion in next year’s budget to help homeless people get into shelters and treatment programs.

More than 27,000 of those living on the streets have been homeless for longer than a year and have a disabling substance abuse, mental health or physical health condition. This is a rise of 5,000 individuals over the previous year.

Bass said: “We will not end homelessness without addressing drug abuse and mental illness. This is a matter of life and death. I refuse to leave unhoused Angelenos on the street knowing that we can do more. This is an emergency, and we are treating it as such.”

Meanwhile, locals are complaining about the problems caused by homeless people taking over the area. Human feces are being dumped in the street, and drug needles are a familiar sight on the ground. Some have been hacking into fire hydrants to obtain water. Although police sometimes come and tell homeless people to pack up their belongings and leave, they typically return within just hours.

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