By Arnold Adler
LOS ANGELES – Some area officials and organizations that help the homeless are calling for a higher minimum wage and more affordable housing as a way of taking some homeless people of them off the streets or to prevent others from winding up there.
They commented following the announcement May 11 that homelessness has gone increased 16 percent, from 35,524 in 2013 to 41,174 this year, in the area covered by the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which includes all of Los Angeles County except the cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach, which conducted a separate count in January.
However, when including statistics from those three cities, the overall figures countywide come to a 12 percent increase, note officials of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, an agency created by the city and county of Los Angeles to obtain funding for programs and provide services for the homeless.
The authority normally conducts a count of the homeless in the county every two years, but has announced it will conduct another count next January.
With an increase in the number of reported homeless, the authority can expect additional funds.
“The demand for homeless assistance has increased in Los Angeles and several recent studies have confirmed our region’s housing and affordability crisis,” said Peter Lynn, executive director of the homeless authority. “We are working diligently to target resources and interventions to create a sustainable, systemic infrastructure to house our homeless neighbors.
Lynn was pleased to see that despite the increase in the general population, the number of homeless veterans remained essentially flat since 2013, up only nine from 4,007 to 4,016.
“No growth in veteran homelessness demonstrates the positive impact of increased federal and local resources to house homeless veterans, but shows a serious challenge of new veterans becoming homeless,” he said. “Los Angeles has housed 7,500 veterans since 2013, but we will need to increase that rate to end veteran homelessness.”
January’s homeless count was the largest in the country, conducted by more than 5,500 volunteers from various communities and organizations, Lynn said.
The largest increase, a 47 percent hike, from 2,429 in 2013 to 3,571 this year was in the county’s Service Planning Area 7, which covers most of Southeast Los Angeles County. Those communities include Bellflower, Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Downey, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, La Mirada, Maywood, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, South Gate, Whittier and Vernon.
The number of homeless in Service Planning Area 3 — the San Gabriel Valley — rose 11 percent from 2,794 to 3,093, while Service Planning Area 4, which includes downtown Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Northeast Los Angeles, Hollywood and West Hollywood, increased 12 percent from 10,472 to 11,681.
Service Planning Area 6, covering South Los Angeles, Compton, Lynwood and Paramount, saw the number of homeless rise just 7 percent from 7,045 to 7,513, and Service Planning Area 5, covering Culver City, West Los Angeles and cities west to Malibu, saw a 17 percent increase from 3,667 to 4,276.
Service Planning Area 8, which includes Inglewood, Carson, experienced the second largest increase of the eight service planning areas, a 39 percent jump from 2,168 to 3,006.
“I’m not surprised at the increase,” said Deborah Wallace, a member of the Culver City Homelessness Committee. “Culver City’s total alone went from 21 to 33 in the count. I see a lot of homeless in the city.
“I don’t think we counted them all. They hide from us and we were told not to get in harm’s way,” Wallace added.
“Ending homelessness is one of my top priorities as mayor, and we’ve made significant progress by permanently housing more than 3,700 homeless veterans, rolling out our coordinated entry system to maximize resources and bringing new leadership to [the housing authority],” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“To prevent people from becoming homeless, I’m proposing an increase in the minimum wage and calling for more housing and services for our most vulnerable Angelenos.
“And we must deepen our commitment to a regional approach to homelessness because this issue requires a strong partnership across all levels of government, the private sector, nonprofits and the philanthropic community,” Garcetti said.
“It is troubling to hear of this increase in the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles County,” county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.
“It is imperative that local efforts are re-doubled to secure more affordable housing and permanent supportive housing for our residents, to bring about a living wage for households struggling to make ends meet, and to put in place crisis response systems that prevent and end homelessness in a coordinated manner.
“Since 2009, more than 1,500 [housing] units in the Second District alone have been built. But if we are to end homelessness, we need to ensure that permanent housing and service funds continue to target homeless persons in the regions with the highest needs,” Ridley-Thomas added.
According to the California Housing Partnership Report, released in April, California’s lowest-incomehouseholds spend two-thirds of their income on housing, leaving little money for food, health care, transportation andother needs and 1.5 million low-income households — half of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties and theInland Empire — do not have access to housing they can afford.
According to the USC Casden Forecast in 2014 the average monthly rent in the Los Angeles region makes it one of the top 10 highest places to rent in the entire country.
Working to find housing for the homeless and providing services to keep others off the streets has been the role of the homeless authority since 1993.
It coordinates and manages more than $70 million annually in federal, state, county and city funds for programs providing shelter, housing and services to homeless persons.
“[We’re a] part of a robust network of city and county agencies, nonprofits, civic and community leaders whohave a shared commitment to serving and reducing the homeless population throughout Los Angeles,” said Kerry Morrison, who chairs the commission that oversees the authority.
“We believe the numbers would be higher were it not for the hard workof our many partners that help homeless persons gain access to safe, stable housing. As new collaborations formand systems of coordination continue to improve, we are better situated than ever before to address this criticalissue and improve the quality of life for the men, women and children in need of our support.”
Lynn, the authority’s executive director, said there are strategic initiatives in process to improve coordination throughout the city and county.
“These include the homeless family solutions system to provide rapid re-housing for homeless families, the coordinated entry system to prioritize permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless; and the veteran surge to end veteran homelessness by December,” Lynn said.
“We have strong collaborative partnerships and smart tools in place to make the best use of our resources, but Los Angeles is a complex region and needs to have funding commensurate with the scale and scope of