-Published by the Valley News Group on 5-31-18-
Homelessness continues to be ‘the’ issue and on Thursday May 31st, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released their annual count, illuminating the evolving emergency.
The big news, according to LAHSA, is 5% fewer people live on LA’s city streets – down from 33,138 in 2017 to 31,516 in 2018. As a region, Los Angeles County reduced homelessness from 55,048 to 53,195 - a -3% change over the last year. This is the first decrease in 4 years and a step in the right direction.
In my district, the count fell from 629 to 608, again the lowest in the city, a -3% change and welcome progress. However, I share the frustrations I hear from my constituents that change isn’t happening fast enough as we see people at freeway underpasses and RV’s on commercial corridors. Panhandling or loitering seem to be growing despite the Count’s good news. Valley homelessness impacts our community’s quality of life and must be addressed.
Other staggering statistics include that 9,765 individuals became homeless for the first time; 75% of the homeless are un-sheltered; the senior homeless population grew; and three out of four homeless people are from Los Angeles. But others show progress towards a more hopeful future. Some positive results include an 18% decrease in veterans experiencing homelessness, and a 16% decrease in the number of chronically homeless individuals. They reflect that the City’s Comprehensive Homeless Strategy is beginning to change lives, and we must persist until every person is off the street and on a productive path forward.
Also, 18,000 housing placements were made in 2017, an increase of 28%. That means 18,000 people got permanent supportive or rapid rehousing, reconnected with family, or through city and county services got off the streets. Over the past six months, using funds from Measure HHH, three new permanent supportive housing facilities broke ground, and 2,500 new housing units are in the pipeline to be built citywide.
As part of this year’s budget, the City Council approved over $400 million toward homeless efforts, including funds from Measure HHH, and I will continue to advocate for the West Valley’s fair share. I am fighting for more assistance from the LAPD Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement (HOPE) team to clean our streets, sidewalks and help the willing people to access services.
I am also working proactively, and constitutionally, to curb homelessness locally by partnering with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and State Senator Henry Stern to collaborate more efficiently. One specific way that we have helped is by hosting regular Homeless Connect Days, which bring services directly to the homeless in the West Valley. County government is responsible for mental health and drug addiction programs, and the City is responsible for cleaning local streets and sidewalks, so the only way we will succeed is by working closely together.
Furthermore, the City’s ability to enforce certain vagrancy-related laws is directly tied to the availability of housing and services. The Constitution, the Courts and various legal settlements have made it clear that without real options for homeless people, real progress cannot be made on our community quality of life issues.
Though the West Valley continues to have fewer unsheltered people than other areas, we can’t take our foot off the gas in addressing local needs. Much more work needs to be done for both short and long term solutions, and I remain committed to tackling the crisis in partnership with county, state, and local service providers.