As L.A. Experiences Double-Digit Spikes in Homelessness, Officials Are Finally Saying We Need Tenant Protections

The results of the latest homeless count are in—and they’re grim

On Tuesday morning, County Officials released the results of L.A.’s 2019 homeless count, and the stats were sobering. According to the report, which was compiled by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the number of Angelenos living in tents, vehicles, and shelters increased by 12 percent in the county and 16 percent in the city since the 2018 count, raising the total number of homeless Angelenos to 58,936 and 36,300, respectively.

Despite a slight decrease in homelessness last year and two years of efforts funded by the county’s multimillion-dollar Measure H sales tax—which allowed homeless services organizations to double the number of people that moved into housing last year—officials say they haven’t been able to keep up with the rising number of Angelenos who are losing access to housing every day. “People are falling into homelessness at a faster clip,” said Peter Lynn, executive director of LAHSA, in a presentation at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

According to the report, approximately 54,882 Angelenos fell into homelessness at some point during the past year, at a rate of about 150 people per day. While the data showed that homelessness had increased in nearly every demographic category (save veterans, who receive more assistance from the federal government), black Angelenos continued to be the most overrepresented, experiencing homelessness at four times the rate of other groups. Homelessness among youth and seniors also saw significant increases.

Twenty-three percent of individuals surveyed said they experienced homelessness for the first time in 2019. Among these 9,200 individuals, a majority cited “economic hardships” as the main reason they had lost housing. Lynn placed much of the blame on the region’s housing crisis, citing factors like unlivable wages, unchecked rent spikes, and evictions as a few of the reasons Angelenos are being pushed from their homes. “The pressures on Angelenos are severe,” he said.

During the meeting, Lynn and other officials proposed rent control, eviction protections, and affordable housing as a few possible solutions to ease the worsening crisis, echoing policy reforms that tenant rights organizers in the city have been pushing for years. While L.A. County passed a limited, temporary rent stabilization ordinance last year, a movement to to pass the more permanent Prop 10 at the state level failed. Attempts to repeal the Ellis Act, which is often used to evict tenants in L.A., have also been unsuccessful, and the effort to build affordable housing using funds from Proposition HHH has progressed slowly.

But perhaps the grim numbers in this report will incite a tide shift. “It’s critical that we work with local community members and every level of government to increase affordable housing, limit rent increases, and prevent unjust evictions while we continue to scale up and refine our system,” said Lynn.

RELATED: Will a Measure to Help L.A.’s Homeless Become a Historic Public Housing Debacle? 

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