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L.A. homeless population drops despite recession, county study finds [Updated]

October 28, 2009 |  2:42 pm
L.A. homeless

Los Angeles County's homeless population has dropped 38% since 2007, according to a survey conducted this year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

The count, which was conducted over three days in January, pegs the region's homeless population at 42,694, down from 68,808 in 2007.

[Updated at 6 p.m.: “We know that things are changing,” said Michael Arnold, executive director of the authority. “We know, we can sense, we can feel that there’s a change out there. These numbers provide us with some documentation, that things are really happening in Los Angeles.”

Arnold said the group needs to do further analysis to understand all the reasons behind the drop, which has been mirrored in other cities in the region.

The numbers are striking because they come during a major economic downturn. The recession fueled concerns that more people who lost their jobs would become homeless.

And although there has been an increase in people seeking aid from charity groups, the report says the recession has not translated into more people living on the streets. Arnold said one explanation for the drop in numbers may be that people have moved out of the region to more affordable areas. Los Angeles, he said, “is a hard place to be homeless.]

The homeless population is still centered in central and downtown Los Angeles, according to the survey, but the numbers there have dropped even more significantly. 

The "metro Los Angeles" reporting area, a swath of land including and immediately surrounding downtown L.A., reports a nearly 50% drop, from 22,030 homeless people counted in 2007 to 11,093 in 2009.

In a news release that accompanied the report, the authority's executive director said the drop in overall homeless numbers can be attributed to efforts by the city, county and local service providers to address poverty and homelessness. Those include L.A. County"s $100-million Homeless Prevention Initiative and the city's push for permanent supportive housing.

The report said the most important change is "a paradigm shift. ... Programs are centered on housing placement of homeless families and individuals and providing the tools and skills they need to stay  housed."

The Homeless Services Authority is a joint city-county agency that distributes federal funds to homeless providers. It released preliminary data from the census today.

A summary of the report is available here. 

-- Cara Mia DiMassa

Photo: A man sleeps on Los Angeles Street in skid row. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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