Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Homeless Count Revised; CD4 Increase Percentages Revised Downward

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency revised the CD4 2020 homeless count downward — reducing the increase in homelessness in the district from 54% to 20%. (This photo of a homeless camp at Willoughby and Vine was taken in December 2019.)

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority revised the city council district data for the 2020 homeless count. According to the revised count, there was a 15% increase in unhoused people in CD 4, compared to the previous year…which was significantly less than the 53% increase first reported. The count was done in January 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Los Angeles.

“That increase was based off revised 2019 numbers, which showed CD4 had a roughly 24% increase from 2018 to 2019, contrary to the 53% increase initially reported using the outdated methodology,” the Los Feliz Ledger reported.  “Had last year’s methodology been used, the district would have shown an 8% decrease in homelessness this year.”

The revised percentages have not been widely reported by the general press because the overall city and county numbers remain essentially the same. The revision in the numbers is simply due to the change in the way the count data is broken down by service provider areas and city council districts.

CD 4 Council Member David Ryu said in a statement that “The revisions and inaccuracies in the district-level numbers are concerning, but they only reinforce what I’ve been saying all along – we don’t solve homelessness one district at a time, we solve it with a citywide, emergency response. I put forth a plan last year to bring a real emergency response to homelessness, and I’m going to keep building housing and pushing for solutions that tackle a citywide problem of homelessness once and for all.” 

In its report on the new numbers, LAHSA addressed the methodology of the 2020 Count:
“A new, more accurate baseline for unsheltered families resulted in a doubling of surveys from unsheltered families. Better survey methods reveal that chronic homelessness is more widespread than previously understood. Because of these changes, year-to-year comparisons in chronic homelessness and unsheltered families are not comparable, and we should consider 2020 a new baseline.”

While any increase is disheartening, the revised numbers seem to make more sense to those actively working to house people.

“All I can really say is that the methodology of the count analysis and interpretation is being questioned on many fronts. The issue that is most pronounced is that they changed their methodology from last year, which resulted in comparing apples to oranges when trying to examine growth rates,” said Jill Bauman, executive director of Imagine LA, a service agency that works extensively with LASHA.

“I am thrilled to see that CD4 didn’t have that large an increase,” said Marilyn Wells, Co-Founder of Stories from the Frontline, an initiative of her family foundation where formerly homeless individuals share their stories. “Living here, and working in the field, I think we would have seen that kind of an increase.”

But Wells said she was also frustrated not see a decrease in the numbers because of all the work that is being done. According to Wells, the city housed 130 people a day during the course of the year, but another 155 a day have also fallen into homelessness, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the local economy, forcing thousands of people out of work. Wells credited CD4 Councilmember David Ryu with building Bridge Housing, but she also said more is needed. And despite her efforts to reassure communities that housing projects can contribute to neighborhoods, she said there is still a great deal of push-back from communities that want the problem solved, but also want to locate the solutions in other neighborhoods.

Wells is also very worried about next year’s numbers.

“We are going to see an astronomical change,” said Wells. “The revision is important so we get the accurate numbers, and [Councilmember] David Ryu has worked really hard. It’s overall shocking and disappointing the numbers went up but we are all going to be blown away by the outcome of COVID.”

The homeless count numbers have become a key issue in the CD4 race, where Ryu is facing a runoff election against Nithya Raman, a newcomer to politics who trained as an urban planner and co-founded the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition in 2017. Raman is making homeless a signature issue of her campaign.

“I was glad to see that District 4 didn’t have as shocking an increase in homelessness as the estimated count from 18 months ago originally indicated,” Raman told the Buzz.  “But even the revised figures are staggering, and the count showed yet another double-digit increase in the district this year — before the pandemic and attending financial devastation that is almost certain to exacerbate the crisis. We can begin to celebrate when the number of people experiencing homelessness in the district and across LA starts going down as quickly as it’s been rising.”

While there is much discussion about the methodology of the homeless count, there is little disagreement that more needs to be done to house more people. Building new housing and supportive housing is part of the answer, and so is prevention.

“We have to work quickly to prevent people from falling into homeless, it’s much harder to get back them back into housing, than to keep them in housing,” said Wells. “Even if it’s just a week, people become chronic in a short amount of time. Life on the street is hard on people and expensive for cities, it’s not worth letting people fall out of housing.”

Wells and others point to all the luxury housing  that is being built and wonders who it’s for.

“We were behind on housing and now we have allowed developers to develop at will, without considering who lives in LA and what they can pay,” said Wells. “We have a tremendous amount of luxury housing, we have to consider who lives here and what they can pay, if we really want to solve homelessness, we just have to do more and soon. We can’t afford to wait.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }