The fight to end homelessness in Los Angeles appears to be more of an uphill battle than anyone could’ve imagined.
On a national scale, there are more people without homes now than anytime in recent history, and the brunt of this issue is spilling over to the West Coast.
As winter approaches, Los Angeles will likely serve as a source of refuge for homeless persons fleeing from sub-zero temperatures in notoriously icy East Coast locales like New York City and Chicago.
Migration is one of the main factors, along with rising housing costs, steady unemployment, and overall displacement.
In recent months, sidewalks and vacant lots throughout the city have been saturated with clusters of homeless persons including displaced families.
Also, in what appears to be a growing trend, homeless encampments are popping up more often in residential neighborhoods, while other individuals continue to pitch tents outside of business and schools.
Los Angeles County’s homeless population has soared 23 percent over last year despite increasing success in placing people in housing, according to the latest annual count released Dec. 6.
The sharp rise, to nearly 58,000, may suggest that the pathway into homelessness continues to outpace intensifying efforts that — through rent subsidies, new construction, outreach and support services — got more than 14,000 people permanently off the streets last year.
“Staggering,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. “It is clear that if we are going to end the homeless crisis, we need to stem the overwhelming tide of people falling into homelessness.”
Said Leslie Evans, a West Adams resident active in efforts to combat homelessness in South Los Angeles: “These are scary numbers.”
Last week, six homes in Bel-Air were destroyed and a dozen others were damaged by a cooking fire at a nearby homeless encampment, Los Angeles fire officials said Tuesday.
For a “number of years,” homeless people had been living in a camp along Sepulveda Boulevard where it passes under the 405 Freeway, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said.
Investigators who inspected the encampment found evidence that people had been cooking and sleeping in the area but did not find anyone there, Sanders said. The department has no suspects, he said.
Homelessness also increased sharply in the city of Los Angeles, where the count of just over 34,000 was up 20 percent from 2016.
“There’s no sugarcoating the bad news,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference Wednesday where the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released its report. “We can’t let rents double every year. I was particularly disappointed to see veteran numbers go up.”