Monday, May 11, 2015


The homeless population in just one metropolitan area is almost double that of the average "small town" USA.

In 2000, slightly more than one-half of the nation’s population lived in jurisdictions --- cities, towns, boroughs, villages and townships --- with fewer than 25,000 people or in rural areas. Planners and geographers might see regions as mega-units, but in fact, they are usually composed of many small towns and a far smaller number of larger cities. Indeed, among the metropolitan areas with more than one million residents in 2000, the average sized city, town, borough, village or township had a population of little more than 20,000.

The homeless population jumped 12% in the last two years in both the city and county of Los Angeles, according to figures released Monday, demonstrating the continuing difficulty of taming the problem amid soaring rents, low wages and stubbornly high unemployment.

Countywide, 44,359 homeless people were tallied in January, up from 39,461 in a 2013 survey, according to a biennial report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Well over half — 25,686 — were in the city of Los Angeles.

Veteran homelessness dropped 6% countywide, to 4,363, but the report did not break out a comparable number for the city. Mayor Eric Garcetti and federal officials have pledged to house every homeless veteran by the end of the year.

The number of tents, makeshift encampments and vehicles with people living in them soared 85%.

A man stands in a homeless encampment beneath the 1st Street Bridge in downtown Los Angeles.

“It’s everywhere now; the encampments are in residential neighborhoods, they’re outside of schools,” said L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice. “It’s jarring. … It shows we’ve got a hell of a lot of work ahead.”

Advocates for the homeless blamed public officials.

Many other big cities reported similar increases in homelessness, including New York City, where the homeless population topped 60,000 this year, a record, according to the New York City Coalition for the Homeless.

But though New York houses most of its homeless people in shelters, about two-thirds of L.A. County’s destitute sleep under freeway bridges, along off-ramps and in sidewalk shantytowns, the January survey found. The number of tents, makeshift shelters and vehicles with people living in them jumped to 9,535 in January, from 5,335 in 2013.