After an influx of cash for county services, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) announced Thursday that the number of people who are homeless has decreased in both the city of Los Angeles and across the county.
The number of homeless in the county fell 3 percent from 55,048 in 2017 to 53,195 this year, according to LAHSA’s 2018 Homeless Count. In the city of Los Angeles, homelessness decreased from 33,138 to 31,516, a 5 percent decrease.
That means that there are as many people without homes in Los Angeles County as there are people who reside in Rosemead, while numbers in the city of Los Angeles are just shy of the population of La Verne.
It’s the first decrease in four years, and most of it is among homeless individuals, according to LAHSA documents. LAHSA’s director of communications, Tom Waldman, said the reduction in homelessness is due to Measure H. The county ballot measure authorized $355 million for homeless services.
“Voters put their trust in us to deliver housing and services for people living on our streets, and today we see that our efforts are yielding results,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “There are thousands of people counting on us to keep going, so we are pressing relentlessly forward until every Angeleno has a safe place to sleep at night.”
Waldman said that although Measure H money became available only last fall, its effects are already being felt. More service workers are able to patrol the streets and connect homeless individuals with assistance, Waldman said, and homelessness prevention programs, such as rent subsidies, have also been boosted.
“It’s the very beginning of the effort, but we’re already seeing the results,” Waldman said, adding that the next influx of cash will come from Measure HHH, meant to fund $1.2 billion in housing developments in Los Angeles.
Waldman also pointed to Executive Directive 24, signed by Garcetti on Wednesday, as something that could help reduce homeless numbers in future years. The new policy will fast-track the construction of emergency homeless shelters, something Waldman called a vital step on the road to permanent housing.
“The way to end homelessness ultimately is to house people permanently,” Waldman said. “The more housing that comes online, the greater the odds will be able to house more people.”
The count was conducted over three nights in January by 8,500 volunteers who went into the community to identify people who are experiencing homelessness.
“A 3 percent reduction in the Homeless Count means we are on the right track, but this is no time to rest,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We should use this momentum to accelerate our efforts to address what I consider to be the civic and moral crisis of our time, to scale up our compassion and innovation. These numbers are a call to action to every resident of Los Angeles County to join in the fight to end homelessness.”