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Los Angeles-area homelessness spike could get worse post-coronavirus
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San Francisco homeless crisis could impact coronavirus recovery: Politician
San Francisco politician Richie Greenberg discusses the growing homeless crisis and how it will impact coronavirus reopening.
LOS ANGELES — The number of homeless people counted across Los Angeles County jumped 12.7% over the past year to more than 66,400 and authorities fear that figure will spike again once the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic is felt.
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The majority of those experiencing homelessness were found within the city of Los Angeles, which saw a 13.6% increase to 41,209, according to data released Friday by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
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The increase was registered one year after the previous tally also found a 12% jump in the county with one of the nation's highest concentrations of residents living on the streets. California has an estimated 150,000 homeless people, the most in the nation.
The crisis is apparent in downtown Los Angeles, where hundreds of people reside in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks in the notorious neighborhood known as Skid Row. Tents regularly pop up on the pavement outside City Hall. And increasingly encampments can be found under freeway overpasses in suburban areas.
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January’s annual count came before the COVID-19 outbreak paralyzed the economy and pushed scores of people into unemployment — many of whom were already spending nearly half their earnings on rent in a city with a severe shortage of affordable housing.
“These are folks who are one missed paycheck, one family tragedy, healthcare crisis, car accident — whatever it is — away from losing their housing,” Heidi Marston, the homeless services authority's new director, said this week.
It’s estimated that the county needs more than a half million new affordable housing units to meet current demand, according to a 2020 report by the California Housing Partnership.
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Los Angeles County instituted a moratorium on evictions amid the pandemic. Marston fears that when it expires at the end of June, many more will find themselves without homes.
If there's one bright spot among the bleak figures, Marston said, it's that the coronavirus is forcing officials to get better at moving people inside rapidly. Some 6,000 homeless residents have been sheltered since the outbreak began, she said.
More than half of those were moved into hotels under Project Roomkey, a state program established to get those most vulnerable to COVID-19 off the streets temporarily. The rooms are reserved for those 65 and older and those with existing medical conditions.
The number of those sheltered amid the pandemic is so far less than half the stated goal of 15,000, and county officials have conceded the process was more complicated than anticipated.