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Number Of Homeless Takes Slight Dip In LA County

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 51,000 people in Los Angeles County are homeless, a slight dip from 2009, despite the poor economy and a wave of foreclosures, according to a survey released Tuesday.

An extensive volunteer count conducted every two years in the city and county estimated the homeless population had dipped by 3 percent from 2009. That was in line with other large metropolitan areas nationally that showed only modest jumps or decreases, said Michael Arnold, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the agency in charge of the count.

The Los Angeles-area figure didn't rise because the federal government supplied tens of millions of dollars in short-term housing grants and federal Recovery Act funding that kept people off the streets, Arnold said.

"I think that that investment is probably why we are seeing no increases in the numbers," Arnold said.

However, Arnold said he was concerned because the money is expected to run out in August 2012.

"We may well experience big increases in our homeless populations next year," he said.

The survey was based on a count conducted in January by more than 5,000 volunteers who covered a 4,000-square-mile area of the city and county in what officials say is the nation's largest homeless census.

The federal government requires communities to count their homeless population every two years in order to qualify for homeless assistance funding. Because a majority of homeless people live on the street, under bridges, in alleyways and doorways, such counts are hard to make and their accuracy imperfect.

However, the latest survey reached a few conclusions. It found that most of the homeless have mental, physical or substance abuse problems. Nearly three out of four are black or Latino. The population was aging, with more than a third of the chronically homeless aged 55 or older.

The survey found that 18 percent of the homeless were military veterans, who have a higher rate of chronic homelessness than the general population. There was an influx of young veterans and the number of women veterans on the streets was up 51 percent from 2009.

That may reflect an influx of servicewomen who return disabled from deployments and struggle in the poor economy, Arnold said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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