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Forum on Homelessness, Part 3: What the Data Tells Us

Jonathan Hans, from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, presents data from the 2016 homeless census

On Thursday, May 26, the East Hollywood Los Feliz Homeless Coalition hosted a forum on the issue of homelessness, which aimed to shed light on the reasons behind the current homeless crisis, why the issue historically has been so hard to deal with, and how things have changed for the better in the way the city is approaching the problem.

The event was moderated by Douglas Walker, board chair of the EHLFHC.  Panel speakers included City Council Members David Ryu and Mitch O’Farrell, LAPD Captain Art Sandoval, Jonathan Hans from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Zahira Mann from the United Way’s Home for Good program, and Rudy Salinas from Housingworks, a non-profit group that addresses issues of AIDS and homelessness.   

This week, the Buzz is presenting a series of stories that summarize the forum’s presentations and provide a look at the public and private partnerships that are beginning to provide a brighter horizon for the homeless in Los Angeles.  This is Part 3 of the series.

One of the key messages of last Thursday’s homeless forum was the importance of data, whether it’s information about which organizations or agencies are doing what, connecting and sharing data among service agencies, or how to connect homeless individuals with services and housing.  But the bedrock of it all is accurate information about the homeless themselves – who are they, where are they, where do they come from, and what do they need?

To improve that very basic understanding, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority conducted its third homeless census in January of this year. Jonathan Hans, from LAHSA, presented some key results from the census at the forum.

According to Hans, the Los Angeles homeless census is the largest such effort in the country, involving 7,500 volunteers and containing four components – a street count, demographic surveys, a shelter count and a youth count (the latter being the most difficult since homeless youth often try to stay out of sight and are harder to find and contact).

2016-HC-Results 4aThe total number of homeless counted in Los Angeles County (including Long Beach, Glendale and Pasadena) this year was 46,874 (not counting youth), which is a 9% increase from 2015.

City Council Member David Ryu, who also spoke at the meeting, noted that the counts are getting more accurate each year, as the number of counting volunteers – and thus the overall ability to cover more ground and find more people – increases.  Hans agreed, saying that 100% of L.A. County census tracts are now included in the count, and “we’re getting better at our jobs” overall.

2016-HC-Results 7aOne bright spot in this year’s data, said Hans, was an overall reduction of 30% in the number of homeless veterans from 2015 to 2016 in Los Angeles County, and a reduction of 41% in the City of Los Angeles.  Also the percentage of sheltered (vs. unsheltered) homeless veterans increased from 34% to 47% over the last year.  And there have been increases in finding homes for homeless veterans as well, with 318 veterans housed each month last year (or almost 10 per day), thanks to coordinated systems and resource investment, such as federal housing vouchers and local funding support.

According to the presentation materials Hans distributed at the meeting (again, see the key results), there was an 18% decrease in homeless families in L.A. County last year, which was more good news.  And 2,390 homeless families found housing in 2015.

Less encouraging however, was some of the other data.

For example, African-Americans are “disproportionately” represented among the homeless — 39% of the homeless population, but only 9% of the general population of Los Angeles.

Also, there has been a 55% increase in the number of females experiencing homelessness since 2013, there was a 12% increase in the number of homeless people between the ages of 18 and 24…and also among people ages 25 to 54.

Demographic data further shows that, among the homeless:

  • 34% are chronically homeless
  • 30% are diagnosed as mentally ill (and, according to Ryu, another 30% are mentally ill but not yet diagnosed as such)
  • 25% suffer from substance abuse
  • 20% have some sort of physical disability
  • 18% overall (which expands to 36% of females and 37% of transgender individuals) have a history of physical or sexual abuse (including domestic abuse)

2016-HC-Results 27aHans pointed out that one myth dispelled by the data, however, is that homeless people migrate to Los Angeles.  In fact, according to the census, 72% of adults experiencing homelessness have lived in L.A. County for more than 20 years…and 70% were last stably housed in Los Angeles (so can be said to be “from” here), not elsewhere.

Finally, said Han, the census data is currently being broken down even further, and results will soon be available for more than 180 individual communities within the L.A. area.

LAHSA’s next homeless census will be conducted January 24-26, 2017.  To find out more, or to get involved, see

Next:  Involved organizations and what they do.



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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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