Despite an increase in spending on initiatives meant to get people off the streets, homelessness is up dramatically in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, officials said Tuesday.
The annual count of the homeless found there are nearly 59,000 people living on the streets, in shelters, or in cars in Los Angeles County, up 12 percent from last year. More than 36,000 are in the city of Los Angeles, a 16 percent increase. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the number "heartbreaking," and said the city recently invested $42 million to provide services and respond to public health concerns, including rats and giant trash heaps piling up around homeless encampments in downtown L.A.
"At this point of unprecedented wealth in the county of Los Angeles, we are equally confronted with unprecedented poverty manifesting itself in the form of homelessness," Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Los Angeles Times. He agreed with other officials that high rents and a lack of affordable housing is a major reason why more people are ending up on the streets.
"Overall, the service portion of the effort on mental health, substance use, the issue of housing, rent subsidies, those are important and we should stay the course," he said. "Where we have to work much harder is in the area of affordable housing." Last year, there was actually a small decrease in homelessness, he added, which is why "this year we are pretty well stunned by this data."