Homelessness jumps 12% in L.A. County and 16% in the city; officials ‘stunned’

 

In a hard reality check for Los Angeles County’s multibillion-dollar hope of ending homelessness, officials reported Tuesday that the number of people living on the streets, in vehicles and in shelters increased by about 12% over last year.

The annual point-in-time count, delivered to the Board of Supervisors, put the number of homeless people just shy of 59,000 countywide. Within the city of Los Angeles, the number soared to more than 36,000, a 16% increase.

 

And as in past years, most — about 75% — were living outside, fueling speculation of a growing public health crisisof rats and trash near homeless encampments downtown.

The findings in L.A. follow a string of similarly dire point-in-time counts from across California, as government officials struggle to respond more forcefully to the state’s abject lack of affordable housing. The shortage is driving up rental prices, forcing people onto the streets at a rapid pace.

“At this point of unprecedented wealth in the county of Los Angeles, we are equally confronted with unprecedented poverty manifesting itself in the form of homelessness,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told The Times.

In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the increase in homelessness “heartbreaking,” but said he was hopeful about the city’s recent work to alleviate the crisis, including an investment of $42 million to respond to public health concerns and intensify street-based services.

“This work has never been for the faint of heart, and we cannot let a set of difficult numbers discourage us, or weaken our resolve,” Garcetti said in a statement to The Times.

But among others in L.A. County, the point-in-time count crushed the optimism from last year’s tally, when a modest decrease in homelessness was recorded. The uptick left officials struggling to understand how the tide could have turned so badly in a year when millions of dollars had been spent rolling out new initiatives to move people into shelters and permanent housing.