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Homeless count reveals nearly 42,000 people are living on the streets of LA

'The unhoused is the symptom, not the root.,' advocates react to new homeless count
'The unhoused is the symptom, not the root.,' advocates react to new homeless count 03:26

The new homeless count revealed that the number of unhoused people in Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles has gone up once again. 


According to officials, there are now 69,144 homeless residents in L.A. County, a 4.1% increase from 2020. Currently, in the City of LA, there are 41,980 people experiencing homelessness, a 1.7 increase from 2020. 

Despite the rising numbers, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the data showed that Los Angeles had flattened the curve of the homeless crisis. 

"The good news here ..., is we finally feel like we flattened the curve," Garcetti said. "Flattening is different than reducing and that's the next step."

Between 2018 and 2020, homelessness in the county rose 25.9% and in the city the number of unhoused increased by 32%.

"I believe we could get to functional zero homelessness number," said L.A. County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell. 

Outreach workers like Veronica Lewis believe that the homelessness crisis is immensely complex.

"For me, what's important is for people to understand how complex it is," said Lewis, who works for Homeless Outreach Program's Integrated Care System. "Even though we housed 21,000 — or whatever the number — last year, we have so many people falling into homelessness. One of the things that's kind of left out is, even with COVID eviction moratoriums, we saw so many people fall out. Landlords found loopholes."

However, the numbers seem bleaker when you look at minority groups. While Black people make up 8% of the population, they account for 30% of the homeless living in L.A. County. Latinos make up 44% of those living on the streets, which is a 26% increase in just two years. Homeless women and homeless seniors increased by 2.4% and 6.5%, respectively. The number of homeless veterans decreased by 6.1%. 

"I believe that we have failed to take action and realize you have to invest more in African Americans compared to others if you want to resolve this problem," said Reverend Oliver Buie with Homan United Methodist Church. "The unhoused is the symptom, not the root."

Buie said one of the issues that need to be resolved is the breakdown of Black families. 

"Start there," he said. "You've got to strengthen Black families."

The homeless count also found that only about 30% of those contacted listed mental health or substance abuse issues, however, mental health commissioner Reba Stevens believed that number is much higher

"Many times we find folks are in denial of their mental health challenges," said Stevens. "Trust me, I spent 21 years of my life unhoused on the streets in Los Angeles. I truly believe anyone and everyone who is facing or experiencing homelessness is experiencing high levels of stress anxiety and depression."

At the same time that city officials were announcing the homeless count, they unveiled a new Project Home Key site, a program where the city turns vacant hotels and motels into permanent housing. 

"I always had a lot of chronic illnesses, and they began to overtake me and then I couldn't work anymore," said Terri Pritchett, a former nurse and a Project Home Key resident. "And that's what happened to me in a like a blink of an eye, and it can happen to anybody."

While the curve may be flattening, the numbers show a 17% increase in the number of tents, RVs and homeless encampments on our streets. 

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