According to a report released Monday, homelessness in L.A. City and across the county jumped 12 percent since 2013 mainly because of an unfortunate mix of lack of employment opportunities, high housing costs and low wages.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported this week that homeless population in LA County counted 44,359 people early this year which is higher than the figures for 2013 when there were about 39,400 homeless people countywide.
But 25,686 of the 44,359 homeless were reported in L.A. City alone. Statistics show, however, that homeless population dropped 6 percent countywide. Yet the situation remains critical within the city’s limits.
City officials pledged that they would provide every homeless people with a place to live by the end of the year. Currently, L.A. homeless dwell in tents, abandoned vehicles, or improvised encampments. Authorities report that the number of such “homes” jumped 85 percent over the past two years, so it is increasingly harder to ignore them.
“It’s everywhere now; the encampments are in residential neighborhoods, they’re outside of schools,”
said a spokesperson for the L.A. city hall.
But groups that try to tackle the issue put the blame on local authorities for failing to provide low-income people with affordable housing by repeatedly ignoring the problem. On the other hand, authorities claim that solving the problem requires a joint effort between the state, businesses, non-for-profits and philanthropic organizations.
Also, city officials noted that re-housing was not the only solution. Homeless people also need mental health counseling or help to get rid of their addictions that keep them isolated from the rest of the community.
Yet, the situation in L.A. is not singular. New York City also reported high levels of homelessness – about 60,000 of homeless people were reported this year. But NYC managed to tackle the problem in a more efficient way, so only one third of homeless people currently live on streets, while the vast majority is hosted in shelters.
In L.A., people living in tents, cars or other improvised shelters soared to more than 9,500, from about 5,300 in 2013. Another cause may be the lack of cheap hotel or motel rooms and apartments due to recent gentrification efforts.
Additionally, homelessness is not only a visual nuisance. It also implies a high crime rate as many people choose to enter shady businesses to survive or fuel their addictions.
Federal reports also show that homelessness soars in L.A. as the county faces the highest rate in the nation. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs nearly doubled funding to the county to tackle the problem. Federal funding was $105 million last year, and $82 million two years ago. LA City also deployed hundreds of home subsidies for people lacking a home that are not eligible for a VA program.
Yet homeless advocates claim that federal and local funding is aimed at helping only homeless veterans, while ignoring the newly homeless.
Moreover, L.A. City affordable housing crisis may also be linked to the cuts in the funding necessary for building new homes for homeless population. Seven years ago, the funding totaled $108 million, but six years later it plunged to less than $30 million.
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