The LAHSA points to last year’s government shutdown, the 2012 cutoff of government stimulus money, as well as prison realignment and jail overcrowding as reasons for the spike in homeless persons. The biggest increase was in single adults, but the economic downturn has revealed the difficulty in tracking the increase in the homeless. Fewer children are able to attend school regularly and food banks are seeing more empty shelves.
“ The children may stay with a relative while the parent is forced to take to the streets,” said Mike Arnold, executive director of LAHSA, who has cited soaring housing costs as a main contributor to the county’s rising homeless rates. “We need to do more.”
Because the Antelope Valley encompasses both city and rural areas, there is no definite statistic for the number of homeless in the community. Many homeless persons have found clever ways to survive without community support or shelter assistance, and do not come forward to be counted. A 2011 UCLA study revealed an estimate of homeless in the Antelope Valley to be between 4,500 and 6,000 people per month. Researchers admitted that the actual number may be three to six times higher than the 2010 Census estimate. Most of the Antelope Valley homeless have migrated from South and Metro Los Angeles, but the warm weather in Southern California, in general, has lured more persons here from across the country. About 14 to 18 percent of homeless adults countywide are not U.S. citizens. Also, there is an increasingly high rate of homeless veterans—up to 20 percent—appearing on the streets daily. African Americans comprise half of the county’s homeless population, disproportionately high compared to the percentage of Blacks in the county overall (about nine percent).
“Lancaster continues to unite with organizations throughout our valley to seek practical solutions,” Crist said. “We’re already working with the City of Palmdale to seek ways to assist the homeless population in our area, 40 percent of which are veterans who have fought for our freedom. In fact, we’ve partnered with the Grace Resource Center to host a men’s emergency homeless shelter at the A.V. Fairgrounds during the winter months.”
Service providers have been under pressure the past six years to assist the growing ranks of those hurt via the Great Recession which disproportionately hit California and the Los Angeles region especially hard. Los Angeles County still suffers from one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and had one of the highest rates of job losses during the economic downturn. There is a lack of affordable housing in the county and the cost for rental housing has skyrocketed. Adding to these woes was AB109, the prison realignment measure, which released large numbers of parolees on to the street with little resources available to house them.
Illegal immigrants have been affected greatly by the poor economy and more of these families, finding themselves homeless, have decided to move to other states or even return to their homelands. Illegal immigrants played a large role in the nation’s economic boom of the 1990s (injecting upwards of $150 billion yearly in economic activity), but a lack of jobs, high cost of housing and inflation has seen their input into the local economy drop considerably.