A total of 5,216 men, women and children without homes were found in the San Fernando Valley during the biennial homeless count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authorities (LAHSA) in January.
That number represents an 8 percent increase in the indigent population of the Valley in comparison with the last homeless count conducted in 2013, when there were 4,836 people without a place to live in this area.
The increase is a reflection of the overall hike in the number of homeless individuals across the county found by hundreds of volunteers that fanned across the country for several nights during the last week of January.
Naomi Goldman, LAHSA spokeswoman, said they didn’t have any specific factors for the rise in the homeless population of the San Fernando Valley, aside from those that seem to affect the rest of the region.
“We have so many pieces of the economic climate in Los Angeles, in general, that are related to wages and unemployment and the affordable housing crisis. Those are factors that are impacting the entire region,” she said.
More than 5,500 volunteers checked tents, shelters, makeshift camps, autos and bridges in search of those living on the streets. The census found a 12 percent rise in the number of homeless men, women and children in the Los Angeles County (excluding Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach) since 2013, showing 44,359 homeless persons in 2015, compared to 39,461 in 2013.
Despite the increase in the general population, the number of homeless veterans has remained essentially flat since 2013 (4,007 to 4,016). Including the other parts of the County, the overall increase in homelessness is 12 percent since 2013.
“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, LAHSA executive director. “We are working diligently to target resources and interventions to create a sustainable, systemic infrastructure to house our homeless neighbors. 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. Los Angeles has housed 7,500 veterans since 2013, but we will need to increase that rate to end veteran homelessness.”
Rents And Wages
The increase in the number of homeless in these past two years is partly due to the high cost of living in this part of the country, particularly when it comes to housing affordability.
The average monthly rent in the Los Angeles region was of $1,716 in December 2014, making Los Angeles — according to the USC Casden Forecast 2014 — one of the top 10 highest places to rent in the United States.
According to the California Housing Partnership Report in April, California’s lowest-income households spend 2/3 of their income on housing, leaving little money for food, healthcare, transportation and other needs. And 1.5 million low-income households — half of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties and the Inland Empire — do not have access to housing they can afford.
In the meantime, angelenos earn less than in any other comparable city, indicates a report by Economic Roundtable in March.
Unions and several labor organizations have pushed to increase the minimum wage in the City of Los Angeles to $15. However, business groups have said this will result in the loss of jobs and the closure of businesses.
Mayor Eric Garcetti has made his own push to raise the minimum wage to $13 by 2017, and $15 by 2019.
“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 LAHSA,” said Garcetti, in response to the findings in the homeless count.
“In January, I participated in this year’s LAHSA Homeless Count and saw firsthand the increase in our homeless population, showing that despite our progress, we must do more to end homelessness. That’s why I am expanding our system for housing homeless people and funding for affordable housing.
“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,” Garcetti continued. “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, non-profits and the philanthropic community.”
The results of the count are sent to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which determines the amount of federal funding the county will receive.