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2019 Los Angeles Homelessness Count: What Funders Need to Know

Publication date: 
Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority unveiled that in 2019, the homeless population increased by an average of 35% statewide, 12% in the County of Los Angeles, and 16% in the City of Los Angeles. While we are disheartened by the report, there are important distinctions to be understood about the recorded surge. 

As shared by United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the increase in Los Angeles County was among the lowest in California despite being the least affordable housing market in America. And Los Angeles County is faring better than most of California because public resources being invested are making an impact. 8,581 housing placements were made possible through Measure H, without which the county’s increase would have hit 28%. Prevention, outreach, engagement, and permanent housing placements have also increased since the passage of Measure H.


Quick Facts:

  • 58,936 Angelenos are experiencing homelessness on any given night – this is an increase of 6,000 (12%) since last year. Among those, 75% are living on the streets, while the remainder stays in shelters or vehicles.
  • In the past year, 22,000 individuals were helped off the streets, which is a 23% increase from the number helped last year (and a 200% increase since before Measure H). However, people are falling into homelessness at a faster rate than support services can meet.
  • Homelessness is not a “Skid Row” issue: 8% of the homeless population is on Skid Row. In comparison, the percentage of people living in their vehicles or alternative spaces increased.
  • The number homeless experiencing serious mental illness decreased/stayed flat (1%). This group makes up a quarter of the total population of people experiencing homelessness.


What about our booming economy?

LA's economy was very robust 2018, but it left many people behind. The counter-intuitive reality is that without stronger tenant protections, an economic boom worsens homelessness: 63% of today’s homeless individuals are on their first episode of homelessness. It is easier to understand this statistic in the context of recent rent and wage trends: 600,000 Angelenos spend 90% of their income on rent. There has been a 3% decrease in house median wages since 2000 and a 32% increase in median rent prices.


What happened with all that Prop HHH money?

The units are coming. The first HHH-funded project, an LA Family Housing campus, opened last week, and more are on the way, including No Place Like Home units. 1,812 supportive housing units are under construction now with 1,400 affordable and supportive housing units scheduled to open this fiscal year.


What’s working?

  • Veterans were a bright spot with a slight decrease in their rates of homelessness. Given the characteristic diversity of vets, veteran homelessness is a good picture of what's possible with a wealth of permanent housing resources and managed inflow.
  • LA County is doing better at housing people who are older and sicker. What is hard to see in the flat statistic of a 17% increase in chronic homelessness is that the new segment of chronically homeless are actually younger, and the jump is primarily driven by people timing into chronicity as they wait for housing.
  • We are more effective at conducting outreach and counting the homeless population. In particular, improvements have been made in outreach/count efforts with homeless youth - so while the increase of 24% for youth homelessness is significant, about one third of this increase is due to a more complete count.
  • LA County is using best practices: When counting tents, cars, and RV's, LAHSA applies a multiplier to estimate the number of people living inside. San Diego County used to do the same until this year. Part of the decrease in homelessness seen in San Diego stems from elimination of this multiplier, a practice which would have lowered LA’s count as well.


Now What? Solutions and Plans for the Future


There are two housing options:

  • Supportive housing is an affordable apartment paired with on-site services like mental health and job training—and is most appropriate for those who have disabilities or for the chronically homeless.
  • Affordable housing provides stable costs and increased availability, e.g., through bond measures, continued policies to invest, rental control ordinances. CA Housing Partnership estimates that LA needs 515,000 housing units—through Prop. HHH & Measure H, 6,500 units have been approved (including No Place Like Home).

An increased focus on prevention is also underway – As part of Measure H, LAHSA is testing prevention strategies for the first time. It is also important to recognize that housing affordability is a major factor in preventing homelessness.

Eight Plans for the Future as Philanthropy Continues to Partner with LAHSA:

1. Going Upstream: Managing inflow is a major story coming out of this homeless count. The Home for Good Funders Collaborative and its members are planning investments in integration with employment systems health systems, and exploring solutions to housing affordability more broadly. LAHSA is also working with the Homelessness Policy Research Institute (HPRI) to improve predictive capacities.

2. Improving Retention: People who were homeless before are the highest risk of becoming homeless again. Within that group, Black tenants have double the returns to homelessness as others. Pilot investments are being made in the coming year to learn how that might change.

3. Upgrading System Infrastructure + Racial Equity: Coordinated Entry practices will be updated to ensure participants are treated fairly regardless of age, race, or status in fleeing domestic violence. This includes upgrading assessment tools and protocols to improve move-in times.

4. Investigating System Performance: LAHSA is the ground with project management and private flex fund investments at many of the new shelters opening in the City and the County to test improvements on connections between street outreach, shelter and permanent housing. The aim is to test enhancements and incentives that increase throughput to ensure every bed can serve the maximum number of people possible and keep homeless individuals engaged while they wait to be matched.

5. Expanding System/Provider/Policy Capacity: As the work expands, capacity building will stretch further with additional Policy Fellows, targeted TA in key industries/geographies/providers, and staff-level investments to help build the next generation of leaders at agencies, especially leaders of color.

6. Coordinating the Youth System: LAHSA presented a joint proposal Youth Demonstration Project at the last Funders Collaborative meeting, which will help optimize services for homeless youth.

7. Enabling Regional Solutions: The Funders Collaborative is working with the County to provide grants to outer-lying cities to create more housing or integrate in with the Coordinated Entry System.

8. Accelerating Production: 15 Accelerating Permanent Supportive Housing investments are in the works and public/private collective investments are being made in a streamlining/expediting team within City Hall. Additional evaluation and research will help illuminate factors driving time and cost savings.

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