Los Angeles, CA—Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Janice Hahn has released the following statement regarding the results of the 2019 Homeless Count. The count, which was presented by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority executive director Peter Lynn during the Board of Supervisors meeting, showed a 12% increase in homelessness in LA County since the previous year. The results showed that even while LA County’s homeless services system has been able to prevent and end homelessness for more than 20,000 individuals and families, many more people fell into homelessness.
I think a lot of us saw this increase coming. We can see in our neighborhoods—and on the sidewalks just outside this building—that there are more people sleeping on the streets and that homelessness is getting worse.
The homelessness crisis took years, even decades to create– and we knew it wouldn’t be solved overnight. But that doesn’t mean these numbers aren’t a disappointment.
Last year we reported the first decrease in our homeless population in years—largely because of Measure H—and many of us were hoping that was a trend that could continue.
But this report makes it clear that the homeless population is growing faster than the rate that we are housing people. LAHSA’s report says we were able to find permanent housing for more than 20,000 people last year. If not for measure H– we would have seen much higher than a 13% increase– like our neighboring counties.
A lot of this work however, has not been visible. Measure H services like Rapid Rehousing have been effective in preventing families from falling into chronic homelessness — but the work to lift chronically homeless individuals off the streets is taking much longer.
Residents are seeing more encampments and more people sleeping on sidewalks in dirty, unhealthy, and heartbreaking conditions. They are frustrated with this problem and we need to give people answers about how we are going to get the chronically homeless, hardest to reach people, off the streets.
At the same time — we cannot focus entirely on chronic long-term homelessness if families continue to fall into homelessness at record rates. We need to confront the larger problem of housing affordability head on. This board has implemented a temporary rent stabilization ordinance for apartments and mobile home parks and plans to consider a permanent ordinance with stronger tenant protections. But we also have to recognize the limitations of these measures. They only apply to the County unincorporated areas and don’t apply to newer buildings because of the State’s Costa Hawkins law. Until more cities implement their own rent stabilization ordinances, and the State rolls back Costa Hawkins—many renters across the County will continue to struggle with higher and higher rent — with no end in sight.
Moving forward, we should work more closely with our providers who are on the front lines of this crisis. We have to make sure they have every resource they need and that no bureaucratic policies stand in their way. We must challenge our smaller cities to invest in supportive housing solutions and embrace interim housing and bridge housing.
NIMBYism is a big part of the reason these projects aren’t coming online fast enough. And communities that resisted projects in their neighborhoods shouldn’t be surprised that the homeless population increased in their regions. Homelessness is in every one of our communities. It isn’t going to go away unless these projects get built.
We also have to take a critical look at our current Measure H allocations with the fresh perspective these new Homeless Count numbers provide. A few weeks ago, when we approved the $460 million Measure H funding for this fiscal year, we also asked that the CEOs office and the Homeless Initiative reevaluate the funding allocations when we got this final report. I think it is also important that LAHSA look critically at what these numbers may say about their own strategies and policies. If we can glean any insight into how to improve our system and make it more effective– we should.
This Homeless Count report presents serious challenges. But this Board has never been one to shy away from bad news or hard problems. It does not change this Board’s commitment to addressing this crisis. It means we have a clearer picture about the realities we face so we can start a new conversation about how to build on our efforts and help more people escape homelessness.