LA’s Homeless Count Underway, After Being Criticized for Methodology, Possible Undercounts Last Year

LA’s Homeless Count Underway, After Being Criticized for Methodology, Possible Undercounts Last Year
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority workers join the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department in assisting homeless individuals in Malibu, Calif., on Sept. 24, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jamie Joseph

As Los Angeles voters just finished an election cycle that magnified the need to resolve the homelessness crisis, another count of the city’s homeless population is underway.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) began its homeless point-in-time count Jan. 24. It concludes Jan. 26 and results will be available in late spring or summer.

Thousands of volunteers are participating in this year’s count—the largest in the country.

Results determine how much funding the area will receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for programs and services to address homelessness.

It is one factor the agency considers when allocating funding for homelessness assistance programs, and permanent supportive and interim housing.

Homeless individuals live out of cars and RVs in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 20, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Homeless individuals live out of cars and RVs in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 20, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Last year, the count recorded 69,144 homeless in Los Angeles County, a 4.1 percent rise from 2020, and 41,980 in the City of LA, an increase of 1.7 percent from 2020. The count for 2021 was canceled due to COVID concerns.

A forecast by the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit research center, estimated the countywide number could reach nearly 90,000 this year.

“Over the next four years the current Pandemic Recession is projected to cause chronic homelessness to increase 49 percent in the United States, 68 percent in California and 86 percent in Los Angeles County,” according to a report the roundtable published in January 2021.

‘Lack of Training’

LAHSA is a joint powers authority of the city and county of Los Angeles created in 1993 to address the issue of homelessness in the region.

It came under criticism for last year’s results—particularly from Venice residents—when undercounting errors were identified after no homeless people were counted in some of the county’s most homeless-ridden areas.

At the time, LAHSA spokesperson Ahmad Chapman said the agency received reports of technological and connectivity issues “resulting from a lack of training.” Despite this, however, the agency said it remained confident in the accuracy of the count.

Point-in-Time Methodology

Los Angeles City Councilmen Kevin de León and Bob Blumenfield also questioned last year’s results when some numbers were inconsistent in their respective districts.

Additionally, recently elected Councilwoman Traci Park, who represents District 11 which includes the Venice area, supported a review of the count’s methodology during her campaign.

In response to the criticism, this year, LAHSA said it hired a demographer and two data scientists to help understand results, will simplify volunteer training both in-person and online, is using a different counting app with a new vendor, has backup paper maps in case of poor internet connectivity and a backup team will be deployed to recount in the event of missing data.

Park told The Epoch Times on Tuesday that she and some of her staff will be participating in this week’s count.

“The point-in-time information is just one of many tools that I will use to implement effective practices to track homelessness and our successes and failures in addressing this crisis,” she said. “It is also critical that the data be thorough and accurate. Good data, transparency, and accountability are necessary for good policy and effective outcomes.”

Changes Ahead for LAHSA

LAHSA, which has a $730 million annual budget, is undergoing other changes, too, as a new chief executive, Va Lecia Adams Kellum was appointed by the agency’s board of commissioners Jan. 23.

Other changes are also likely, as the city and county have both stated they are in the process of reevaluating their relationship with the agency.

“I’ve had my doubts about LAHSA,” Los Angeles Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement after she and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass introduced Adams Kellum in her new role during a Jan. 23 press conference. “What LAHSA has done, and, frankly, what our county and our city has done so far to address this crisis, I believe, hasn’t worked.”

Nonetheless, Hahn expressed optimism about the newly-appointed executive, stating that she is “someone who has risen to meet the homelessness crisis in a bold way.”

Jamie is a California-based reporter covering issues in Los Angeles and state policies for The Epoch Times. In her free time, she enjoys reading nonfiction and thrillers, going to the beach, studying Christian theology, and writing poetry. You can always find Jamie writing breaking news with a cup of tea in hand.