2018 Homeless Count Declines for the First Time in Four Years

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks during the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count press conference at a construction site where the nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) is building supportive housing funded through Measure H, Proposition HHH, and other resources. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County fell for the first time in four years to 53,195 — a three percent decline —  according to the 2018 Homeless Count.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which conducted the Count, also saw a record number of people placed into housing, as well as double-digit drops in chronic and veteran homelessness.

However, the Count also recorded an increase in the number of people who became homeless for the first time, suggesting that the root causes of homelessness, such as the affordable housing crisis, have continued to worsen.

“A three percent reduction in the Homeless Count means we are on the right track, but this is no time to rest,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “We should use this momentum to accelerate our efforts to address what I consider to be the civic and moral crisis of our time, to scale up our compassion and innovation. These numbers are a call to action to every resident of Los Angeles County to join in the fight to end homelessness. Everyone In!

Rendering of PATH Metro Villas Phase 2, slated for completion in October 2019. PATH Metro Villas Phase 1, located in the same compound, is slated for completion in July 2018.

The Supervisor spoke during a press conference at a construction site where the nonprofit organization, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), is building almost 200 housing units whose supportive services will be funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure H. Slated for completion in October 2019, PATH Metro Villas will also include a 3,000-sq. ft. primary healthcare clinic, a mental health clinic, a Veterans Connections Center, and other facilities, funded with Measure H and the Homeless Initiative, Proposition HHH, and a host of other public and private resources.

“Voters put their trust in us to deliver housing and services for people living on our streets, and today we see that our efforts are yielding results,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the press conference. “There are thousands of people counting on us to keep going, so we are pressing relentlessly forward until every Angeleno has a safe place to sleep at night.”

“For the first time in four years we saw the number of people homeless in LA County decrease,” LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn said. “It’s encouraging, and indicates new resources voters approved are already having an impact. We housed more than 16,500 people — the most our region has ever achieved. As the funds and programs from Measures H and Proposition HHH begin to reach more people and create more housing, we will continue building on this momentum.”

Gloria Johnson

In 2017, 16,519 people moved into homes in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (LA C0C), which refers to Los Angeles County, excluding Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach. That number is a significant increase from 14,214 in 2016 and 10,917 in 2015.

Gloria Johnson, a nurse’s assistant and former foster youth who experienced homelessness for years before securing affordable housing, said she volunteered for the Count because she wanted to give back.

“Getting into housing has allowed me to go back to school and find a career as a housing case manager at HOPICS in South LA, which provides services, support and outreach to homeless people of all ages,” she said. “My mom died last year — homeless. But I am ending that cycle. My kids have a bed to sleep in. I have a home.”

Among the most striking discoveries in the 2018 Count were double-digit drops in chronic and veteran homelessness. The number of people who are chronically homeless, defined as those with a disabling condition who have experienced homelessness for at least a year, fell 16 percent from 17,204 in 2017 to 14,389 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless veterans fell 18 percent from 4,792 to 3,910.

The 2018 Count also told a promising story about homeless youth. The overall number of youth did not show a significant change, shifting from 3,233 to 3,306, which is statistically within the margin of error. However, 53 percent of homeless youth in 2018 were sheltered, up from 45 percent in 2017.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with PATH CEO Joel John Roberts.

“We are still in the early stages of implementing our homeless initiatives, but these numbers show that our strategies are the right ones and we are beginning to make progress,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said. “These results should give us the confidence to double down on our efforts. There are still more than 53,000 people on the streets and they should know that help is on the way.”

“Today’s results demonstrate that change is possible if we stay on this road and we aggressively push forward toward solutions together,” added Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Daunting challenges remain in the fight against homelessness, since Los Angeles County has an affordable housing shortage of 565,255 units, partly because rents have been rising faster than incomes. More than a quarter of the homeless who are unsheltered —  9,322 people (LA CoC) — ended up on the streets for the first time in 2017.

The 2018 Count found that homelessness was not driven by new arrivals. Only 10 percent of those surveyed had been in Los Angeles County for a year or less. About 65 percent have been local residents for more than 20 years.

Meanwhile, black people remain overrepresented among the homeless. They account for only 9 percent of the County’s overall population, but represent 35 percent of its homeless population, down from 40 percent the year before.

Other findings of the Count:

Household Types (LA County):

  • Single Adults: 80 percent
  • Families with children under age 18: 14 percent
  • Young Adults ages 18-24, living without a parent or guardian: 6 percent

Gender (LA County):

  • Male: 67 percent
  • Female: 31 percent
  • Transgender: 2 percent

Race and Ethnicity (LA CoC)

  • Hispanic or Latino: 35 percent
  • White: 25 percent
  • Black/African-American: 35 percent
  • Asian: 1 percent
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 1 percent
  • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 1 percent
  • Multi-Racial/Other: 1 percent

Age (LA CoC):

  • 22% increase in seniors 62 and older
  • All other age groups saw a slight decrease

Domestic Violence (LA CoC):

  • 3,081 people (6% percent) reported becoming homeless because they fled domestic/intimate partner violence

Health Conditions (LA County):

  • 15 percent report a substance use disorder
  • 27 percent report a serious mental illness

LAHSA conducted the 2018 Count with the help of more than 8,500 volunteers, who fanned out across 4,000 square miles on January 23-25, 2018  to conduct a point-in-time census of the homeless population.