13% Jump in L.A.’s Homeless Count Calls for Complete Overhaul of Government Approach

ahfweb Press Release

LOS ANGELES (June 11, 2020) On Friday, June 12—the day Los Angeles officials formally release the region’s 2020 homeless count—housing justice and homeless advocates with the Rental Affordability Act and other groups will host a PRESS CONFERENCE on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall (200 Spring Street, West Plaza Steps, Los Angeles 90012) to demand a comprehensive overhaul of the local government response to the crisis, including its expensive and largely ineffectual approach to the ongoing human catastrophe of homelessness in Los Angeles.

WHAT:            PRESS CONFERENCE: 2020 L.A. HOMELESS COUNT SPIKES YET AGAIN              Advocates to urge radical change in L.A.’s official response to homeless crisis; encourage support for November statewide rent control ballot measure

WHEN:            Friday, June 12, 2020 12:00 p.m. (noon)     

WHERE:         Los Angeles City Hall Steps, West Plaza (facing Grand Park)

200 N. Spring Street, L.A., CA 90012

WHO:                         

  • René Christian Moya, director, Rental Affordability Act ballot campaign
  • Hon. David Ryu, Los Angeles City Councilmember (D-District 4)
  • Susie Shannon, Executive Director, Poverty Matters and formerly homeless
  • Trinidad Ruiz, Los Angeles Tenants’ Union (LATU) and RAA Campaign
  • Abel González, a member of ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment)
  • A member from the group, Reclaiming Our Homes
  • Hon. Miguel Santiago, CA Assemblymember (D-Los Angeles, District 53) (pending confirmation)

The 2020 Los Angeles homeless count—which took place in January, before the coronavirus pandemic wreaked medical, social, and economic havoc across the region—showed a double-digit percentage increase. Homelessness in L.A. County is up 13% to 66,433 from the 58,936 individuals counted countywide in 2019 (that itself a 12 percent hike over 2018’s count), despite hundreds of millions spent by city and county officials. In the City of Los Angeles, the count jumped 14% to 41,290 homeless individuals living unsheltered or on the streets in 2020 up 14% from 36,165 last year.

“The County’s approach to the homeless and affordable housing crises has proven year after year to be extremely expensive and utterly ineffective. L.A. County’s homelessness crisis isn’t just a human rights catastrophe; it is an impending economic disaster with dangerous implications for California and all its citizens,” said René Christian Moya, director of the Rental Affordability Act campaign. “These homeless numbers today indicate we need a complete rethinking and overhaul of our official government response.”

“It is high time that city and county officials in Los Angeles aggressively pursue alternative and  cost-effective housing models to address homelessness, including wider support for rent control. The adaptive reuse of older hotels and buildings, motel conversions, master leasing of entire properties, which can cost as little as $500 per unit per month versus the $650,000 to $700,000 price per unit for HHH and other homeless housing,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. “We need more housing solutions and fewer public relations campaigns.”

Housing justice advocates point to failed government efforts like Measure HHH, a 2016 City of Los Angeles ballot measure heavily touted by elected officials that raised $1.2 billion for low-income housing. Tenants did not move into the first HHH apartments until three years after the measure passed. And with the average cost of each housing unit at $650,000 and climbing, HHH is a housing model mismatched to the problem we faced then—and even more so today.    

The advocates will also urge officials to adopt the SRO hotel model for homeless housing that Healthy Housing Foundation (HHF) by AHF has been successfully deploying since October 2017. HHF now operates eight properties in Greater Los Angeles with a total 791 rooms that it purchased, refurbished and redeployed for homeless housing.

“Black and brown communities are also disproportionately represented in homeless communities in Los Angeles and across the nation,” added RAA’s Moya. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this economic divide, with gentrification also hitting communities of color especially hard fueling greater hardship and homelessness. Officials must consider this while creating new housing solutions.”

Housing justice advocates and backers of the Rental Affordability Act (RAA), the November 2020 state ballot initiative that will allow for expansion of rent control throughout California, will also speak at the press conference to promote the importance of measure as a means to address housing affordability and homelessness. Currently, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act—which passed in Sacramento in 1995 by one vote—prevents rent control in all but a handful of cities and towns in the state.

In Los Angeles, where rents are among the highest in the nation, afive percent increase will drive another 2,000 people into homelessness, according to Zillow. Unsurprisingly, in 2018, L.A. was hit with a22 percent increase in homelessness among senior citizens aged 62 and older.

“The City of London was able to house ninety percent of its homeless population during the COVID pandemic, yet here in L.A, we can’t even seem to make a dent housing our homeless. It’s an abject failure of government,” added AHF’s Weinstein.

Learn more at https://www.rentcontrolnow.org/ and https://www.housinghumanright.org/.