They’re visibly invisible. In Los Angeles particularly, as in Dublin, Russia or Mexico, near daily we walk, run or drive by them, evidently uncertain or uncaring about how to help and forgetting that the smallest discomfort in our own lives can make the biggest difference in another’s. There’s “no money” in helping the homeless they say, no billions to be made and no affiliate programs to benefit our nation’s social salesman in this vertical, no Instagram models touting products suited for their demographic. We sit in traffic for minutes or hours on end as the tops of torn blue tarp tents and craftily constructed cardboard houses whiz by and catch our eye. How long do we look before we turn our mind and our gaze back to our road. Homelessness statistics tell us it should be much longer.
“When helping the homeless, leave the camera at home,” they also say. And while there’s some merit to that, there’s also a definitive counterargument to be made: Why not help and then holler, why not make uplifting the less fortunate the thing to do. An Influencer is an Influencer. And the data is the data. The metrics are in and something’s gotta give.
In a world where Pied Pipers parrot soundbites from the likes of Warren Buffett and Richard Branson, I argue it’s too often we forget that in America, the odds we’ll become millionaires are only a few fractions of a percentile higher than the odds we’ll become homeless. No one plans for homelessness—at least not very effectively.
“I know [homeless] people that worked for Google, I know people that work for Sysco, I know people that worked for IBM. I know some people that had some really good jobs that lived out here with us.” — Formerly Homeless Man, Los Angeles
Roughly 44% of Homeless People are Employed.
Source: National Coalition for the Homeless
Homelessness Statistics, Los Angeles, California
- 53,195 people in Los Angeles County are experiencing homelessness
- +22% increase in people aged 62 and older who are experiencing homelessness
- 3 out of 4 people experiencing homelessness remain unsheltered
- 6% of people experiencing homelessness are currently fleeing violence
- 9,322 people over the past year are experiencing homelessness for the first time
- Statistics from Los Angeles Mission
How do People Become Homeless?
Top reasons respondents became homeless:
- 31% job loss
- 20% drugs or alcohol use
- 15% divorce or separation
- 13% argument with family member who asked them to leave
- 12% incarceration
- 10% eviction
- 7% domestic violence
- 7% mental health
- 7% physical health or medical condition
- 1% housing restrictions due to probation or parole
- Statistics from Los Angeles Mission
What Could Prevent Homelessness?
Asked what would have prevented their homelessness, respondents said:
- 34% employment assistance
- 31% rental assistance
- 28% drug or alcohol counseling
- 19% mental health services
United States Homelessness Statistics:
- 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States (January 2014)
- Of those 578,424 homeless people, 216,197 are people in families, and 362,163 are individuals
- About 15%, or 84,291 members of the homeless population are considered “chronically homeless” individuals
- About 9%, or 49,933, are homeless veterans
- California hosts a total of 113,952 homeless individuals; representing 20% of all homeless people in the US.
- There are approximately 15,179 homeless veterans
California Homelessness Statistics
- California had an estimated 151,278 experiencing homelessness on any given day (as of January 2019)
- 7,044 of them were family households
- 10,980 were Veterans
- 11,993 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24)
- 41,557 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
- 246,296 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the 2016-2017 school year.
- 7,533 of those students were unsheltered
- 17,061 of those students were in shelters
- 10,095 of those students were in hotels or motels
- 211,607 were doubled up.
- Statistics from the US Interagency Council on Homelessness
The State of Homelessness in America
In September 2019, The Council of Economic Advisers, an agency within the Executive Office of the President charged with offering the President objective economic advice on formulating economic policy, issued this 41 page report on “The State of Homelessness in America.”
Key Statistics from The State of Homelessness in America
- “Over half-a-million people [500,000] go homeless on a single night in the United States.”
- “Approximately 65% are in homeless shelters, and the other 35% (just under 200,000) are unsheltered on our streets, in places not intended for human habitation, such as sidewalks, parks, cars, or abandoned buildings.”
Los Angeles Homelessness Statistics
- 50,000 to 60,000 persons may be found homeless on any given night in Los Angeles County (2019)
- 44,000+ of them live on the streets.
- 8,915 of them are youth, minors through age 24
- The largest concentrations of homeless persons in Los Angeles are in the Central (27%), and South (16%) Los Angeles areas
- Most are from the Los Angeles area and stay in or near the communities from which they came
- ~7% are veterans
- 34% of Los Angeles County’s homeless population are African Americans — hugely disproportionate to the percent of African Americans in Los Angeles County (~8 percent)
- 31% are female; 69% are male
- 28% are chronically homeless
- 25% of homeless persons suffers from mental illness
- 16% are physically disabled
- 15% are in family units (often headed by a single mother)
- 15% of homeless persons have substance abuse disorders
- 9% of Los Angeles homeless persons are under age 18.
- 7% of homeless population were victims of domestic or intimate partner violence
- Source Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
LA Curbed Homelessness Statistics
LA Curbed provides us additional, albeit sometimes differing, statistics on persons affected by homelessness:
- 58,936 LA County residents are experienced homelessness in 2018 (a 12% increase over 2018).
- 36,300 City of Los Angeles residents experienced homelessness (a 16% increase over 2018).
- 75% of homeless residents lack permanent shelter (in both the city and county of LA).
- 54,882 LA County residents became homeless in 2018
- 100,000 people likely experienced homelessness at some point during 2018
- and of these ~100,000 people, 21,631 (21.63%) were housed through county programs while an estimated 27,080 (27%) were able to reenter housing themselves
- 63% homeless residents are now without housing for the first time
- 53% of those experiencing first-time homelessness said they lack housing for economic reasons
- 16,528 people live in cars, vans, or RVs, illegal in residential neighborhoods
- 11,086 people live in tents and makeshift shelters; up 17% over 2018’s count
- 3,926 youth experienced homelessness; up 24% since 2018. (LAHSA says its method of counting homeless youth has also changed).
- 71% of those experiencing homelessness don’t have a serious mental illness or substance abuse issues.
- 75% of homeless residents who have lived in LA County for at least 5 years
- 33.2% of homeless residents are black. Black residents make up just 8% of the county’s population.
- 16,529 are chronically homeless residents, who have been without housing for a year or more and have a disabling condition
- 5,303 units of supportive housing for chronically homeless residents were approved through the city of LA’s Measure HHH. 1,300 more supportive housing units are under construction. No permanent units have been completed.
- 1,309 homeless residents with HIV or AIDs—a 77% increase over 2018
- 24,493 people were placed into interim housing in 2018.
- 1,841 additional beds became available in 2018.
- 1,187 homeless residents in Los Angeles City Council District 4, a 53% increase over 2018
- 3 LA districts saw decreases since 2018
Fox News Los Angeles Homelessness Statistics Summary
14 February 2019, Fox News published “Homelessness in Los Angeles: Here are the Statistics.” An excerpt follows:
- “The last survey on the city’s homeless population took place in 2019 and showed a total of 36,165 people without a consistent living situation. That represents a 16 percent increase since the 2018 count, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority.”
- “Of the 36,165 individuals without a place to live, 8,944 were in shelters, while 27,221 were unsheltered. Los Angeles remains the least affordable housing market in the United States, LASHA reported, which can cancel out efforts to house the indigent and mentally ill.”
“LA’s Rules About Where Homeless People Are Allowed To Sit And Sleep Could Get Even More Complicated“
- “Though there are more than 27,000 people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the city of Los Angeles at any given time, there are only about 8,100 shelter beds. [Leaving 18,900 without access to a bed] More than half of those beds are reserved for families with children.”
- “That leaves just over 4,000 beds for single adults, who make up the bulk of the homeless population.”
2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress
- On a single night in 2018, about 36,000 people were experiencing homelessness as unaccompanied youth—that is, people under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness on their own.
- On a single night in 2018, roughly 553,000 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States.
- African Americans are considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the overall U.S. population.
- Nearly 38,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2018, of whom 62% were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs.
- Of every 10,000 people in the United States, 17 experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018.
- 4 in 10 people experiencing homelessness were black or African American (219,809 people)