LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County saw a significant jump in its homeless population, even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to new numbers released Friday.
The 2020 Greater L.A. Homeless Count, which was conducted in January, recorded 66,433 people living on the streets of L.A. County, a staggering 12.7% increase from the year before.
Of that total, 41,290 were within the city of L.A., which marked a 14.2% increase over 2019, the L.A. Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reports.
It’s still unclear how the coronavirus pandemic, which took hold in mid-March, will have affected those numbers. There have been 234 confirmed coronavirus cases among L.A. County’s homeless and six deaths.
“The report captures a picture of homelessness in Los Angeles County as it was in January 2020, the time of this year’s Homeless Count, and before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic could be felt, measured, or responded to through efforts such as Project Roomkey, rent freezes, and eviction moratoriums,” LAHSA said in a news release.
The latest numbers, however, point to a concerning steady and gradual increase in L.A. County’s homeless population over the past several years. L.A. County’s homeless population jumped about 12% between 2018 and 2019, while the city of L.A. saw its homeless population rise by 16% between 2018 and 2019.
With the fear of a COVID-19 outbreak among the homeless population, the city of L.A. has turned several recreation centers into emergency shelters across the city. The city and county have deployed hand-washing stations and portable toilets at several encampments and brought hundreds of hotels rooms and 500 trailers online to deal with the problem.
Last month, a federal judge, citing health concerns related to COVID-19, ordered the city of L.A. to relocate thousands of homeless people living near freeway overpasses and underpasses.
In April, the state of California launched Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative in partnership with FEMA to temporarily house homeless people in available hotel and motel rooms in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. State and local governments are then reimbursed by FEMA for up to 75 percent for the cost of those rooms.
LAHSA said Friday that 6,010 homeless people have been placed in emergency housing since the coronavirus lockdown order took affect in March. Of those, 4,056 were housed through Project Roomkey, 1,708 were placed in shelters through the Parks & Recreation Department and 246 were placed in trailers.
In March 2017, L.A. County voters adopted Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs. It is meant to generate $355 million annually for 10 years to fund a variety of programs to combat homelessness.
In April 2018, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the “A Bridge Home” program, which involves putting up about two dozen temporary homeless shelters. The Bridge Home program housed 12,438 people in 2019, LAHSA reports.
In November 2016, L.A. city voters passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund permanent housing for the homeless. Prop HHH money was used to fund a new women’s shelter which opened in September 2019 on the site of the old Hollywood Library. Its also part of the Bride Home program.