The overall four percent homeless count decrease reported by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority shows that the county is making progress in its effort to address the homelessness crisis – but we “have a lot of work to do,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.
“The numbers are promising in the fact that there are significant reductions in homelessness among veterans and the chronically homeless,” Barger said.
In Barger’s Fifth District, which includes Santa Clarita, “There is an estimated 25 percent decrease overall – much of this can be attributed to increases in housing placements and an uptick in the coordination between county agencies and community-based providers,” she said.
Barger is supporting the development of a year-round crisis housing facility in Santa Clarita and permanent supportive housing across the district.
She also initiated the opening of 24-hour shelter in Lancaster, which provides bridge housing support and other critical services in conjunction with the Salvation Army.
Barger credits the cities in her district, which have joined forces with the county to address the needs in their individual municipalities.
“In the Antelope Valley, and across the district, leaders and communities have come on board in a very significant way,” she said. “This gives us hope and strengthens our resolve to ensure that Measure H funding is fully utilized to provide housing and services to those in need.”
“Clearly, there is a significant percentage of individuals suffering from mental illness among the homeless population – and access to health care is a vital component to help them reestablish productive lives,” she said.
Wednesday, the State Assembly passed AB 1971, a proposal for a change in state law spearheaded by Barger and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The legislation amends the state’s definition of “gravely disabled” to include medical treatment as a basic human need for those suffering from a serious mental illness.
AB 1971 was jointly authored by Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Phillip Chen (R-Brea) and now moves to the California State Senate, where it will await a committee hearing.
“For the first time in four years, the number of people experiencing homelessness showed no increase,” Supervisor Shiela Kuehl said in a statement.
“Slowly, but steadily, our plan to address homelessness is starting to make an impact,” she said. “And it’s important to note the very real impact on each of the individuals or families who were helped to find housing and services. A total of 16,500 people who were experiencing homelessness moved into homes last year. That’s the largest number of individuals we have ever placed in housing, and 2,000 more than the previous year.
“Veteran homelessness decreased by 18 percent,” Kuehl said. “The number of people who have been homeless for a year or more decreased by 16 percent. More than half of youth experiencing homelessness are now sheltered, a 22 percent increase over last year.
“This year’s Homeless Count shows us that we have made headway and are on the right track, though serious challenges remain,” she said. “We simply do not have enough affordable housing, and the County’s high rents, stagnating wages, and high poverty rate will continue to drive people out of their homes.
“I am grateful to the many people in government, nonprofits, and business, as well as faith and community leaders who have contributed to this reduction in LA’s homeless count,” Kuehl said. “Our work will not stop until every person in the county has a home.”