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As LA’s homeless increases by 16 percent, service providers gather to discuss, plan

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013, at 04:14PM
Hayley Fox/blogdowntown

A recent report shows the homeless population in L.A. County has increased by 16 percent since 2011. On Friday, service providers, government agencies and others gathered in DTLA to discuss the results of the recent homeless count and discuss what's next.

Hundreds of service groups, government agencies and politicos gathered at a downtown L.A. hotel on Friday to discuss the findings of this year's homeless count, which showed an increase in the number of homeless people in L.A. County.

Organized by United Way L.A., the session was in part a rallying cry for the organization's initiative, "Home for Good." In the first two and a half years Home for Good has housed less than 10,000 chronic and veteran homeless people, and in the next two and a half they aim to place more than 50,000.

“The chronically homeless are folks who have been outside for long periods of time, generally a year or more, sometimes decades, and they also have a disability," said Christine Marge, the director of Home for Good. "They’re facing mental health challenges, substance abuse issues or a chronic health issue.”

According to data gathered by the 2013 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, there are 58,423 homeless people in L.A. County — a 16 percent increase from 2011 when the last survey was completed.

Although there was an overall increase in homelessness, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA)— which organizes the homeless count — reports that there's been a decrease in the number of homeless veterans and families.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen a significant reduction in federal resources available to fight homelessness,” said Michael Arnold, Executive Director of LAHSA, in a statement. “The increase we see today in our homeless population demonstrates the direct relationship between resources to address the problem and our ability to have an impact.”

Arnold added that the decrease in homeless veterans was due largely because an increase in federal funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He said as a result, the number of homeless vets in L.A. has gone down by 23 percent.

But Herb Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission, said that number could have decreased even more with better outreach. And Smith, like many who work with homeless, said AB 109 has contributed to the surge of the homeless in L.A. This bill led to the eventual release of many prisoners.

Barbara Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Counsel on Homelessness,said that in general when prisoners are released, they often end up homeless."

“We do know though that in other places across the country that there is a connection between those who are exiting prison and them falling into homelessness when they come back into the community," said Poppe. "So that they may have had a place to leave upon exit of the prison system but when they actually arrive things don’t work out.”

Home for Good also attributes the increase in the homeless count to a growth in the number of "hidden homeless" as well. These are the people that live off the streets in backyards and garages, and are often less visible.

The Home for Good initiative has secured another $100 million in funding toward their goals.

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