On any given night throughout Los Angeles County, 55,188 humans are living in a state of homelessness.
The latest data from the countywide1 homeless count by the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (LACoC), released just last week, shows a startling uptick: homelessness overall risen by 23% across the county—that’s 10,920 additional human lives added to the fringe.
Perhaps more alarming are the disproportionate affects on the Latino community and under-18 youth: nearly 7,000 of those folks are Latino, accounting for a 63% increase over last year, and nearly 1,500 of these people are under the age of 18, a 41% increase.
Despite increasing efforts to handle homelessness, from the passage of Measures H and HHH to the shoot-down of the disastrous Measure S, successes remain limited when compared to the surge in homelessness. Take, for example, the fact that over 14,000 people transitioned into permanent housing over the course of 2016—that’s a 30% increase over 2015 and a 61% increase over 2014. It is a step forward but with staggering increases in other areas, such as the 18- to 24-year-old population that saw a 64% increase in homelessness.
In fact, nearly every single population saw an increase in homelessness in 2016: families (up 29%), veterans (up 57%), seniors (up 30%), youth (up41%), and young adults (up 64%). Pair this with an alarming increase in folks with HIV/AIDS experiencing homelessness (up 67%) and those with severe mental illnesses also experiencing homelessness (up 13%), and one can almost feel a sense of hopelessness.
The main culprit of the surge? Affordability.
Latinos account for not only a large portion of the population but experience high levels of poverty—hovering around the 20%—because households often consist of individuals working multiple low-paying jobs.
As work continues to get cut for any given reason, those small slivers of pay lost are devastating to a family or individual in a place that experiences some of the highest rent hikes in the nation, prompting what Rose Rios of Cover the Homeless Ministry describes as living with “one foot on a banana peel and the other one step from homelessness.”
We have a lot of work to do.
1. LACoC’s count does not include Long Beach, Pasadena, or Glendale because those cities conduct their own homeless counts.
This piece first appeared at LongBeachize. All photos by Brian Addison.