The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported this week that the region has nearly 60 percent more shelter capacity for people experiencing homelessness than existed three years ago, along with more permanent housing options, but still is falling short of meeting demand.
LAHSA reported shelter capacity for 24,616 people, an increase of 57 percent over the last three years, in addition to 33,592 permanent housing options, up 16 percent over the same time period.
The shelter and housing options do not meet the number of people who were counted as experiencing homelessness during the 2020 count, which was 66,436 in Los Angeles County. LAHSA’s 2021 count was canceled due to COVID-19, but the region’s unhoused population is believed to have increased by thousands since the start of the pandemic.
The increase in shelter and housing options comes as the pandemic significantly strained the region’s shelter supply, as congregate shelters decreased the number of occupied beds to comply with social distancing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Project Roomkey and Project Homekey, funded through federal, state and local dollars, helped make up for the loss.
“Our rehousing system’s response to COVID saved lives because of unprecedented coordination across sectors and an influx of state and federal emergency funding,” LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said. “We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness.”
LAHSA’s housing and shelter inventory counts, as well as a count of the number of people in the shelters on any given night, were conducted on Jan. 27 and released on Wednesday. More than 17,000 people were counted in the shelters, about the same as last year, Marston said.
According to LAHSA, the region’s rehousing system needs to be more balanced with an average of five exit options for every shelter bed, but the current ratio is about one-to-one, causing people experiencing homelessness to remain in shelters or on the streets instead of being rehoused into permanent housing.
“It is critical that our region continues to add to our housing and shelter supply. We need more strategic investments that create low-barrier and private shelter options in areas of the county where the need is greatest,” Marston said. “But shelter without a permanent housing option leaves people stuck.”