Published On: Fri, Jun 12th, 2020

L.A. County saw a 12.7% jump in homeless population before the coronavirus pandemic

Los Angeles County saw another significant jump in its homeless population prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to new numbers released Friday. The 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which was conducted in January, recorded 66,433 people living on the streets of L.A. County, a staggering 12.7% increase from the year before

Of that total, 41,290 were within the city of Los Angeles.

It’s still unclear how the coronavirus pandemic, which took hold in March, is affecting those numbers, which were released on Friday by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

CBS Los Angeles reports the numbers point to a steady, continuous increase in L.A. County’s homeless population over the past several years. The homeless population jumped about 12% between 2018 and 2019, while the city of L.A. saw its homeless population rise by 16% between 2018 and 2019.

Last month, a federal judge, citing health concerns related to COVID-19, ordered the city of L.A. to relocate thousands of homeless people living near freeway overpasses and underpasses. 

A homeless tent is seen over a bridge on the 110 Freeway, during the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic in Los Angeles, California, on May 25, 2020.

APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

With the fear of a COVID-19 outbreak among the homeless population, the city of L.A. has turned several recreation centers into emergency shelters across the city. The city and county have deployed hand-washing stations and portable toilets at several encampments and brought hundreds of hotels rooms and 500 trailers online to help deal with the problem.

In April, the state of California launched Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative in partnership with FEMA to temporarily house homeless people in available hotel and motel rooms in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. State and local governments are reimbursed by FEMA for up to 75 percent of the cost of those rooms.

LAHSA said Friday that 6,010 homeless people have been placed in emergency housing since a coronavirus lockdown order took affect in March. Of those, 4,056 were housed through Project Roomkey, 1,708 were placed in shelters through the Parks & Recreation Department and 246 were placed in trailers.

In November 2016, L.A. city voters passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund permanent housing for the homeless, but the units will take years to approve and build.

In March 2017, L.A. County voters adopted Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs. It is meant to generate $355 million annually for 10 years to fund a variety of programs to combat homelessness.

In April 2018, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the “Bridge Home” program, which involves putting up about two dozen temporary homeless shelters across the city to help combat the growing homeless crisis.

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