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In Los Angeles, a 'Disaster of Epic Proportions'

Spike in homelessness tied to increasing rents, lack of affordable housing
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2019 9:35 AM CDT
Tents housing the homeless line a street in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

(Newser) – Despite $619 million spent to end homelessness around Los Angeles in 2018, the situation only got worse. Over the last year, the number of people living on the streets, in vehicles, or in shelters rose 12%, to just under 59,000 in Los Angeles County, and climbed 16% to 36,300 in the city itself, reports the Los Angeles Times. Shouts of "Shame on you!" and "That's an undercount!" were heard from homeless and housing advocates as the point-in-time count conducted annually in January was revealed at a Tuesday meeting of the county Board of Supervisors. Though 21,000 were placed in homes, many more were turned out, per CNN. Young-adult homelessness jumped 24% to 4,000, while the number of homeless families climbed 8% to 8,800. More than 1,600 of those families live on the street, as do 75% of homeless people in the county, per the Guardian.

It's "a disaster of epic proportions," the CEO of a homeless organization tells the Guardian, which reports black Americans are disproportionately affected, representing 8% of the county population but 33% of those homeless. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti cites "skyrocketing rents [and] statewide and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with an epidemic of untreated trauma and mental illness," but he says city investments, including $42 million to be spent on public health and street-based services, should help. Despite such investments, numbers across California are "similarly dire" as officials "struggle to respond more forcefully to the state's abject lack of affordable housing," which is causing rental prices to spike, per the Times. It notes the county needs more than half a million additional units of affordable rental housing to meet demand. (Read more homeless stories.)

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