In its 2017 Homeless Count report released today, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported that since 2016, homelessness in LA County has risen by 23%. On any given night, there are 58,000 individuals and families experiencing homelessness, sleeping in their cars, in shelters, and on the streets of our cities.
Increases affected nearly every demographic group, with some notable standouts. Homelessness among Hispanic or Latino individuals increased by 63%, a rate higher than that of any other ethnic group. Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, periods of homelessness longer than one year or four or more times in a three-year period, increased by 20%. Veteran homelessness, which fell 30% in 2015, increased by a staggering 57% in 2016.
Women's homelessness, which increased 55% between 2013 and 2016, went up an additional 16% in 2016, bringing the number of women experiencing homelessness in LA County to 17,882. In the downtown LA area, which includes Skid Row, women's homelessness rose 33% (the overall homeless population in downtown LA increased 32%). Across LA County, 17,945 individuals reported having experienced domestic and/or intimate partner violence, which disproportionately affects women, at some point during their lifetime – more than double the 2016 total of 8,233.
Similarly to last year, the high cost of housing in Los Angeles is a consistent factor keeping women and other demographic groups homeless. The LA Metro area is the most cost-burdened area in the United States; 23% of residents spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and 25% of residents pay more than 50%. LA County currently has an affordable housing gap of nearly 552,000 units, with a rental vacancy rate of just 2.6%. As rental increases continue to outpace median household income (California Housing Partnership Corporation), fewer Angelenos are able to afford housing and more are driven into homelessness. Making more affordable housing available across all areas of LA County will eliminate one of the major causes of homelessness.
This year's Homeless Count numbers are heartbreaking. However, thanks to voters in LA City and County, we are equipped with the resources to confront this crisis in a way we never have before. In November 2016, voters in LA City passed Prop HHH, a $1.2 billion housing bond that will fund construction of up to 10,000 units of permanent housing for individuals currently experiencing homelessness. In March 2017, LA County voters approved Measure H, which will generate $355 million annually to go toward supportive services and housing that could end homelessness for 45,000 people. Now, we must ensure this funding is spent as effectively as possible on the housing, programs, and services we know make the biggest impact.
Thanks to voters in LA City and County, we are equipped with the resources to confront this crisis in a way we never have before.
At the Downtown Women's Center, we know what ending and preventing homelessness looks like - we see it happen every day. Through permanent supportive housing and access to supportive services, such as mental and physical healthcare and trauma recovery treatment, 98% of the women we house stay housed permanently. If we put resources toward implementing this model throughout LA County, we will see a day when Homeless Count results reflect a decrease in the number of all people experiencing homelessness – including women.
Advocate: Homelessness rates have increased across LA County, and affordable housing is critically needed in all neighborhoods, not just in Skid Row. Join the YIMBY movement - say Yes In My Backyard! Contact your local councilmembers and neighborhood representatives to advocate for more affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in your community, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.
Attend: A 50-person panel of homelessness experts, service providers, individuals with homelessness experience, business leaders, and more have developed a list of Measure H funding recommendations for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. On Tuesday, June 13, the County Board of Supervisors will vote to approve the Measure H funding allocations as well as the budget for the next three years. To show our community's engagement and commitment to ending homelessness, we invite you join us in attending this meeting. If you are planning to attend the meeting or would like more information, please contact our PR and Policy Coordinator, Rachel Kassenbrock, at RachelK@DowntownWomensCenter.org. We hope to see you there.
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