The Current Status of Los Angeles Homelessness

Los Angeles has the second largest unsheltered homeless population in the United States. According to the homeless street count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (“LAHSA”) in May 2016, there are almost 46,874 people currently experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County; compared with the previous year, that represents an increase of 2,515 people or 5.7% from 2015 (44,359). Of those counted by LAHSA, 74% were unsheltered. The leading factor contributing to this approximately 6% increase seems to be a severe shortage of affordable housing. The soaring rent has driven up the homeless population, forcing people to live outdoors in tents, shanties, cars and RVs, if they can possess one. The situation has escalated to the point that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors moved to declare homelessness a statewide emergency in August. That same month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ask the Governor to declare homelessness a statewide emergency.

In addressing the issue, the city of Los Angeles plans to commit at least $100 million annually for housing and other services. The biggest pending move of the city is Proposition HHH, the Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond, which is on the November ballot and would require 75% of voters endorsing the plan. If approved, the proposition would allow the County to issue bonds to raise $1.2 billion. The majority of the funding would be used to create 10,000 permanent supportive housing units which would attempt to house all of the City’s chronically homeless residents in the next decade. These individuals are the most vulnerable ones who have been homeless for at least a year, suffering from the range of mental illnesses, including substance abuse, physical disabilities, or a combination of these problems. In addition to permanent housing the prop. would provide for a bundle of mental and physical health services and case management. The County also plans to allocate 20% if the funds to affordable housing for people who have very low –income and temporary shelter for those who are at the risk of becoming homeless and those who already are.

The plan is undoubtedly an ambitious, and a critical one. Without it the City has only approximately $26 million this year to develop affordable housing, and not all of it is directed toward helping people who are homeless. However, while the city is planning to launch a long –term solution to terminate the crisis, there is also a critical need to address the current emergency of homelessness. As the city moves to allocate its funding toward permanent solutions there will be cuts on programs that are currently addressing the short –term needs of the population. Apart from reducing subsidies to shelters and other facilities that provide services to the homeless, it impacts the access to treatment for those suffering from mental illness or substance abuse problems.

Proponents of the proposition will have to scramble in order to gather 75% of the voters to support the plan. Some homeowners and business owners may vote against the proposition because of the possibility of increased property taxes.

So far, the city has yet to articulate it’s plan to generate the amount of projected funds that it originally called for in their report issued in January.

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