“Simply cracking down on homelessness without providing the housing that people need is not a real solution and will likely only make the situation worse,” said Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, whose city has been an object of the president’s scorn.
An estimated 59,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles County, according to a count conducted this year by the county, about a 12 percent increase over 2018. Of those, an estimated 44,000, or 75 percent, were unsheltered. Within the city of Los Angeles, which is distinct from the county, there were 36,000 homeless, including 27,000 who were unsheltered, according to that same count.
Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric M. Garcetti, and other political leaders faced intense scrutiny this summer after the release of the results of the 2019 count, which also showed that the number of homeless had increased 16 percent in the city. The surge was especially shocking because the government spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2018 to address the problem.
Voters approved two high-profile initiatives in recent years to fund homeless services in the region, including a 2016 city bond that earmarked $1.2 billion to build housing for the homeless and a 2017 county quarter-cent sales tax increase to raise about $355 million annually for 10 years. The mayor’s defenders and city officials have pointed out that the city housed nearly 22,000 people in 2018, a record number for the government and an increase of 23 percent from 2017. But even amid those efforts, the high cost of housing in Los Angeles, one of the priciest rental markets in the country, has continued to push more individuals and families out of their homes.
While Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles has often been a focal point for national conversations about homelessness, the high rate of unsheltered people has become a source of friction across the state, in cities including Eureka, Oakland and San Francisco. With nowhere else to go, the homeless often set up encampments on sidewalks and beneath highway overpasses. Increasingly, encampments are nestling against wild lands, raising concerns amid increasingly intense and volatile wildfire seasons.
But while the displeasure of middle-class urban residents often receives attention, the homeless themselves — many of whom have full-time jobs but cannot afford California’s high rents — have the most to be frustrated about. Safety is a huge concern: An analysis published earlier this year by Kaiser Health News found that a record 918 homeless people died last year in Los Angeles County.
The administration has discussed refurbishing homeless facilities or building new ones, The Post reported. An administration official said that while those ideas have been discussed, nothing has been settled.