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Greater L.A. Homeless Count Shows Decreases Not Mirrored in Santa Monica
By Niki Cervantes
June 1, 2018 -- The number of homeless counted in Greater Los Angeles dipped for the first time in four years, officials announced Thursday, registering an overall decline of those living on the streets and leaving Santa Monica behind in the effort to handle the regional crisis.
Countywide, the 2018 count totaled 53,195 homeless people, down from 55,048 people -- or 3 percent -- from last year, according to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency.
The agency’s count showed the population of homeless people living on the streets dropped as well, from 42,828 people in 2017 to 39,826 people this year.
In nearby Venice, the overall homeless population dropped 18 percent, from last year’s 1,195 people to 975 in the new count. Those without shelter dropped by 20 percent.
"Slowly, but steadily, our plan to address homelessness is starting to make an impact," said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, chair of the LA County Board of Supervisors.
According to the count, a total of 16,500 homeless individuals moved into housing last year, a record number that was 2,000 more than last year.
"This year’s Homeless Count shows us that we have made headway and are on the right track, though serious challenges remain," said Kuehl, whose district includes Santa Monica.
"We simply do not have enough affordable housing, and the County's high rents, stagnating wages, and high poverty rate will continue to drive people out of their homes."
In its own independent count this winter, the City of Santa Monica found the record 26 percent increase in homeless people recorded in 2017 had slowed to a four percent increase, bringing its citywide total to 957 people in 2018, up from 921 homeless people last year.
At the same time, the number of people living on the streets or on the beached jumped 11 percent to 646 people in 2018, up from 581 people the year before ("Santa Monica’s Homeless Population Continued to Rise in 2018 but at Slower Pace," March 7, 2018).
As was the case with Santa Monica, in LA
County the number of homeless people in formal sheltered space dropped.
In Santa Monica, the shelter homeless population dropped by nine percent, or from 340 such people in 2017 to 311 people this year.
The City of Los Angeles experienced a five percent drop in its homeless population, to 31,516 people this year, although the results varied by neighborhood.
Skid Row decreased by seven percent, to 4,294 homeless people, the 2018 count said. In Hollywood, the decrease was 11 percent, for a total homeless population of 1,681 people.
In Santa Monica, the City’s "homelessness czar" said the absence of big increases in the homeless population demonstrated a heartening signal.
“The Santa Monica City Council had the forethought to make a one-time investment of $1.4 million in street engagement activities last November,” said Alisa Orduña, the City’s senior advisor on homelessness to the City Manager’s Office.
“We’re beginning to see these investments pay off both in terms of the number of people connected to services and new levels of regional collaboration,” she said.
“The countywide release signals this shift and gives us all momentum to continue to forge ahead.”
Orduña said new funding is helping expand homeless outreach services across the city, including Downtown ("Santa Monica City Council Awards Contract for Homeless Street Team," August 15, 2017).
The City also has hired a social worker and additional service officers at the Main Library and an additional officer for the Santa Monica Police Department Homeless Liaison Program (HLP Team).
Countywide voters in March approved Measure H, which is to provide a $3.5 billion to prevent and/or assist in homeless services ("Santa Monica Voters Among Strongest Supporters of Measure H," March 10, 2017)..
It comes in addition to the $1.2 billion approved from L.A. City Proposition HHH to provide homes for the homeless.
Measure H funds began funneling out to communities in the county in July.
Thursday report also estimated more than 9,000 people in Los Angeles County became homeless for the first time in the last year. In addition, it registered a 22 percent increase in the homeless population of those 62 years of age or older.
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