Homelessness in the City of Los Angeles’ hot spots increased by an average of 18 percent, despite official numbers showing a decrease of unsheltered persons in those same areas recorded in the 2022 point-in-time count, according to a recent survey by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit public policy research organization.
The survey, published on Jan. 26, was created using a team of researchers for the Los Angeles Longitudinal Enumeration and Demographic Survey Project “to better inform the development of effective homelessness policy,” the report said.
The survey was conducted over the course of a year from September 2021 to October 2022 and revealed an 18 percent increase in homeless people in certain neighborhoods.
The team found homelessness in Hollywood increased by 14.5 percent, Skid Row by 13 percent, and Venice by 32 percent.
But contradictory to RAND’s research, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA)—the premiere hub for LA city and county homeless resources—found homelessness decreased in Venice, Skid Row, and Hollywood during the annual three-day count.
Overall, LA County in 2022 had more than 69,000 homeless people—a 4 percent rise from 2020—and about 43,000 in the City of LA—up nearly 2 percent from 2020—according to LAHSA. Despite nearly a 23 percent increase in homelessness over the past two years, the organization recorded only a 5 percent increase in unsheltered homeless during the pandemic.
But the RAND survey, contradicting some of LAHSA’s findings, was coincidentally released the same day LAHSA’s 2023 count wrapped up on Jan. 26, as thousands of volunteers finished counting homeless people on the streets, tents, encampments, RVs, and vehicles. Officials say results will be ready in late spring or summer.
Meanwhile, the methodology for the RAND team consisted of separate day shifts. Over the course of the study, researchers visited Hollywood twice, Skid Row five times, and Venice three times.
Team members varied the time of the week and month for each site visit with shifts beginning around 8 a.m. with two teams of three field workers. During each shift, researchers approached unsheltered homeless people and made an offer to participate in a 10-minute survey for $5.
For example, researchers found that during a three-day encampment cleanup in Venice’s Centennial Park in June 2022 the population count had decreased by 13 percent in the month following.
The reduction was caused by a reduced number of encampments, while the number of vehicles, vans, and recreational vehicles stayed the same. However, by the end of the month, the population had reverted back to its prior level.
The survey identified among the more than 400 homeless people surveyed, nearly 80 percent reported being homeless for more than a year, and 57 percent for more than three years.
More than half of the respondents also reported a chronic health or mental health condition.
Additionally, around 85 percent of respondents said they would accept offers of placement into permanent supportive housing, a hotel or motel, or a private shelter setting. The most common reasons that respondents cited for not moving into housing were “never being contacted for move-in (44 percent), lack of privacy (40 percent), housing safety (35 percent), and paperwork issues (29 percent).”
By the end of the study, the RAND team concluded that “policymakers should concentrate on housing solutions that incorporate privacy and autonomy and that expanding congregate shelter capacity may not be effective in reducing the unsheltered population.”
While the LAHSA point-in-time count involves volunteers counting the homeless population over three nights, RAND’s study took a different approach by employing professional canvassers to observe the homeless population over the course of an entire year, LAHSA said. Therefore, the RAND study and the LAHSA count are different and the results of the former study “could not replace the [point-in-time] count.” However, LAHSA staff said it welcomes the data from the RAND study, as it provides valuable information about the homeless population in the areas studied.
LAHSA came under criticism for last year’s results—particularly from Venice residents—when undercounting errors were identified by LAHSA volunteers after no homeless people were counted in some of the county’s most homeless-ridden areas.
In response to the criticism, this year, LAHSA officials said they hired a demographer and two data scientists to help understand results, will simplify volunteer training both in-person and online, are using a different counting app with a new vendor, have backup paper maps in case of poor internet connectivity, and a backup team will be deployed to recount in the event of missing data.