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Reflecting on the 2015 Homeless Count

Monday’s release of the 2015 Homeless Count results hit many of us quite hard. After years of tireless efforts, it can feel incredibly disheartening to receive news like this. This gives us an opportunity, however, to look at this data and understand the successes and shortfalls of our work to date, and to reflect on the critical action steps that we must take together to improve our trajectory.

Numbers & Trends – Click to download a summary sheet of the 2015 Homeless Count’s facts and figures

  • Homelessness overall has increased by 12% over the last two years from 39,461 to 44,359. An improving economy has put increased pressure on the rental market, with an 8% increase in rents, hitting hardest those of extremely low incomes. 60% of renters in LA County are paying more than half their income on rent.
  • Veteran homelessness decreased 6% in the last two years, and our community has reduced veteran homelessness by 39% since the start of Home For Good in 2011. This figure is remarkable, especially given that we now know that on average, 10 veterans become homeless each day, a rate that has tripled over the last few years. To put this in perspective, two years ago there were just over 4,600 homeless veterans. In the last two years, our partners-all of you-have housed over 7,500 veterans, and today our count is just over 4,300.
  • Chronic homelessness has risen 54% in the last two years. We have seen significant declines in resources for rapid rehousing, meaning that more of our homeless individuals and families are on the streets for longer and longer periods of time, with their health conditions often deteriorating in that time.

What’s Ahead – As we look at what we must do to improve our trajectory and truly end homelessness, we see 5 Key Action Steps:

  1. LANDLORD RECRUITMENT – There are currently over 500 veterans with vouchers searching for homes. Thanks to the partnership of Mayor Garcetti, our Business Leaders Task Force, HACLA, HACoLA, and HCID, we’ve been able to launch Home For Heroes. We encourage you to get the word out to your local landlords.EXPANDED RESOURCES – Through the Home For Good Funders Collaborative, we have received outstanding proposals in response to our RFP seeking to scale Coordinated Entry System (CES) throughout the county. We welcome additional public and private funders to join us in investing in these projects, alongside the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Weingart Foundation, W.M. Keck Foundation, LAHSA, the VA, HACLA, County Board Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, DMH, DHS and many more.
  2. DEEPENED COORDINATION – We have leaders who have stepped up to design and implement CES in each region of the county, and they are actively welcoming additional partners. Find the CES team near you.
  3. INCREASED AFFORDABLE HOUSING RESOURCES – These are critical in stemming the tide of homelessness. The Building Homes and Jobs Act (AB1335) would bring tremendous resources to LA to that end. Learn more and send a letter of support.
  4. CONTINUED RESOLVE – Through a focus on permanent housing and Housing First as the solution, our Home For Good partners have housed over 20,000 of our most vulnerable neighbors over the last four years. This is remarkable and must remind us that our systems and approach have changed the lives of 20,000 people.

As we reflect on this year’s Count and what’s ahead, we find the comments of Home For Good partner John Horn, Vice President of Programs at LA Family Housing, captured our sentiments beautifully in saying:

“Homeless Count 2015 showed that the number of persons experiencing homelessness in LA City/County increased 12%. Disappointing news – yes, but definitely not discouraging. I have been working to end homelessness since 1993 when I started as a Case Manager for a medical clinic. Ending homelessness was not even looked at as a possibility when I started – a pipe dream. The goal was to help people to survive – to make life easier for them on the street; placing persons in permanent housing was not even viewed as a remote possibility. Today, the scene is different. The numbers may show an increase but, as often is the case with numbers, one really needs to look at a deeper to see the real story. Today we now have by-name lists of persons experiencing homelessness across LA County and are working to place the most in need into permanent housing through coordinated assessment and entry processes for both individuals and families. We can look at a person who has been living with homelessness for years and offer a real sense of hope – not empty promises. Shared housing is gathering steam as a real solution to ending homelessness for lower acuity persons. Despite some of the comments in the article, the public/private/business sectors are actually working together to bring about change instead of pointing fingers and blame. We are seeing community members in roles that would have been unheard of 20 years ago as volunteers serve as outreach workers and housing navigators. Support for solutions is present and acceptance is building. Local neighborhood council members – who just a few years ago wailed against the homeless being in a local park – are now HUGE advocates for permanent supportive housing and other proven efforts to end homelessness. Attendance at our local Homeless Coalition meetings has never been stronger as people come together to work on real change. Yes, the aggregate numbers are big but change is happening. Sometimes change takes time to get moving but once it does, watch out. Pointing finger, giving blame, making excuses will not end homelessness. Continued implementation of best practices, increased permanent supportive housing, and staying the course will make it happen. Enough with the numbers…It is time to get back to work.”

 We are deeply grateful for each of you -the resolve and spirit you bring to this work is inspiring and life- changing for the thousands we have housed together and the thousands counting on us to see this through.