Veterans, transgender individuals and transition age youth see stark jumps in homelessness levels.
By Sam Catanzaro
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has released the results of the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which showed 36,300 people experiencing homelessness, a 16 percent rise from last year. In Council District 11, which includes Venice, homelessness increased by 12 percent overall and even more so among certain groups, including transition age youth and transgender individuals.
“The homelessness crisis in Los Angeles is getting worse, After several declarations of emergency, the development of comprehensive strategies, voter approval of taxes to address homelessness, and the launch of new programs, how the hell is that possible?” said Councilmember Mike Bonin. “People are becoming homeless faster than we can house them. The pathways into homelessness are big, and varied, and fast-moving. The pathways out of homelessness are few, narrow, and clogged, and maddeningly slow.”
The number of individuals experiencing homelessness in District 11 in 2019 is 2,284, a 16 percent increase from 2018. According to the count, 97 percent of these individuals are unsheltered. Areas in which the district saw stark increases include homelessness among transition age youth between the ages 18-24 seeing a 50 percent increase (17 percent citywide), veterans a 47 percent increase (8 percent citywide) and transgender individuals a 248 percent increase (18 percent citywide).
In addition, the count showed that in Council District 11, 55 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness over the age of 18 reported domestic violence or intimate partner violence, compared to 39 percent citywide. In the district, this represents 1,182 individuals, a 63 percent increase from 2018.
One area in which Council District 11 saw a decrease in homelessness was among individuals with a substance use disorder, in which a 2 percent decrease was reported, compared to a 3 percent increase citywide.
LAHSA announced the results of the count as city leaders continue to put millions of dollars into efforts to combat homelessness, but as the numbers suggest, more needs to be done.
“We housed more than 21,000 people last year, and LA’s increase is half the statewide average of 32 percent—thanks in large part to the vision and courage that Angelenos showed in passing Prop. HHH and Measure H,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “While we did better, it’s not good enough. That’s why we’re putting more resources than ever into meeting the urgency of the moment.
In Council District 11, three bridge housing centers are in the works that lawmakers hope will put a dent in the crisis.
Last month, Bonin announced that a 154-bed bridge housing center at the old MTA bus yard on Main Street will open at some point this summer. In addition, a nearly 100-bed bridge housing center for veterans experiencing homelessness will also open this summer at the West Los Angeles VA, according to Bonin. Across the street at the West Los Angeles National Guard Armory, plans have been submitted to the federal government to build a bridge housing center there for non-veteran homeless individuals in the area.
While these shelters are expected to make a dent in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness, city officials say to resolve the crisis fully they will have to address root causes, including the cost of living in Los Angeles.
According to a report released last week by Apartment List, the median rent of two-bedroom apartments in Los Angeles increased by 0.7 percent over the past year with four months of consecutive increases. Median rent prices in Los Angeles continue to be less affordable than comparable cities nationwide – Los Angeles’ median two-bedroom rent of $1,750 is above the national average of $1,190.
To combat the increased cost to rent in Los Angeles, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz who represents parts of West LA is calling on the City to increase funding for programs aimed at protecting tenants from getting unfairly evicted.
“Too many people are being evicted from their rental units because they can’t navigate the complex legal maze of eviction (landlord-tenant) law, and we want this program to grow into one that benefits tenants and landlords alike by keeping cases out of court and combats homelessness by keeping tenants in their homes,” Koretz said. “Eviction prevention is one of the most cost-effective ways to stem the flow of low-income families and seniors into homelessness. And I daresay we’ll be looking to add funding to grow this program sooner rather than later so we can help more tenants.”