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Nearly Half Of LA County's Homeless Population Recently Worked, Study Finds

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- A new study shows that nearly half of the people who make up the homeless population in the Los Angeles area were recently employed.

The report found that 74 percent of people experiencing homelessness previously worked in California. Nearly 47 percent were found to have worked within four years of becoming homeless. Nineteen percent worked in the calendar quarter they became homeless.

"There's often an assumption that people experiencing homelessness are not working," said Till von Wachter, a co-author of the report and faculty director of the California Policy Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Von Wachter also acknowledged that there were some people in the study experiencing homelessness who hadn't worked in a long time. He also said that recent workers had a higher likelihood of getting back to work after receiving homeless services and had higher average earnings.

Skid Row
Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. LAPD were involved in a shooting of a homeless man who attempted to grab an officer's gun. Skid Row has LA's largest concentration of homeless people who regularly camp on the sidewalks in tents and cardboard boxes. (Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images)

The income of people who worked before becoming homeless was $9,970, far below the average medium income for the L.A. area, which is $61,015, according to a news release about the study.

Factors like mental and physical health, age and work history impacted the likelihood of finding employment after enrolling in homeless services. The study found that 65 percent of the people in the study worked in the following job categories before enrolling in homeless services: administrative support, waste management and remediation (28 percent); health care and social assistance (14 percent); accommodation and food (12 percent); and retail (11 percent).

The study's authors wrote that more research will need to be conducted to develop policy recommendations, look into the relationship between job loss and homelessness, and examine how workforce and training programs can impact homelessness.

The study examined more than 130,000 people who received homeless services in L.A. County. Results were published Feb. 26 by the California Policy Lab at UCLA.

There are nearly 60,000 people experiencing homelessness in the L.A. area on any given night, according to the L.A. Homeless Services Authority.

Gov. Gavin Newsom made homelessness the focal point of his State of the State address Feb. 19, calling it "the most pernicious crisis in our midst, the ultimate manifestation of poverty."

A recent statewide poll showed likely voters in the state view homelessness and housing as their top concerns ahead of the March 3 primary election.

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