- The number of people living on the streets, in vehicles or in homeless shelters in Los Angeles County rose by 12% in the last year, according to a report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. In the city of Los Angeles, there was a 16% increase in the homeless population since last year.
- Economic forces, especially rising rents and income inequality, have forced more people onto the streets, the report found. More than 9,200 people, or 23% of those experiencing homelessness, experienced it for the first time last year.
- The increase came despite public investment in expanded homeless services and efforts to move people into permanent housing through Los Angeles’ Measure H sales tax increase and a separate bond.
Los Angeles has long identified its homelessness problem, even declaring a state of emergency on the issue in 2015 to request additional funding. The Measure H tax increase was passed in 2017 to bring in an estimated $355 million per year for ten years, which has been used for prevention, outreach and engagement; according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, funding from Measure H helped double the number of people being moved to permanent housing each year. The bond measure, Proposition HHH, was passed in 2016 to free up $1.2 billion for assistance services and shelter construction.
That intervention seemed to be working, as last year the city reported a drop in its homeless population. That’s made this year’s data even more sobering. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the report was "heartbreaking," but promised the city would continue fighting the problem.
"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," he said.
Clearly, the city and county will have to do more to manage skyrocketing rents that have force low-income residents out of their homes. NPR, citing the nonprofit California Housing Partnership, reports that Los Angeles County’s median monthly rent has risen 32% since 2000, settling at $2,471, while income has remained flat.
The problem is not isolated to Los Angeles. Nationally, homelessness slightly increased in 2018, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Other growing cities — especially tech hubs like San Francisco and Seattle — have also seen booming housing prices and rents that have caused an affordable housing crisis. San Francisco has even sought help from the tech industry through the Housing Trust Silicon Valley's Tech+Equity+Community+Housing (TECH) Fund, a private initiative designed to maintain affordable housing.