Los Angeles city officials are challenging the latest official homeless count over accuracy concerns.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released the results of the 2022 homeless count on Sept. 8, saying the data suggested that “homelessness may be rising more slowly than in previous years.”
The results of the point-in-time count, conducted over three nights in February, estimated that 69,144 people were experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County at that time, a 4.1% rise from 2020, and 41,980 people were experiencing homelessness in the City of Los Angeles, up 1.7% from 2020. A count was not conducted in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the agency.
But the count showed that there were no unsheltered people either living in tents, outdoors or in cars or RVs in the northwest quarter of Venice, an area notorious for its pervasive homeless population, the Los Angeles Times reported. According to the count, the number of homeless dropped from 509 to 0.
“During the Count, we received several reports of user and technological errors resulting from a lack of training and poor internet connectivity,” Ahmad Chapman, LAHSA’s communications director, said in a statement to the Times. “Despite these errors, we are confident in the accuracy of this year’s homeless Count because LAHSA and its partners took several steps to account for what was happening in the field.”
Though the average increase citywide was modest, the count showed large swings in some council districts, including an 80% increase in a west San Fernando Valley district and a 40% decrease in the Westside district that includes Venice. A settlement in a federal court case requires each district to provide housing to 60% of its homeless population, throwing weight behind the count for city policymakers.
In response, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez submitted two motions requesting an evaluation into LAHSA’s count from this year and the prior year, as well as a report recommending options for a third party to conduct the point-in-time homeless count in the future.
Martinez, joined by Councilmen Kevin de León, sought more information from the LAHSA and the city’s housing department on homeless intervention strategies conducted between the last two counts in 2020 and 2022, The Epoch Times reported. Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and Curren Price also signed onto a motion calling for a report on intervention strategies implemented by each council district in the past five years.
“I go out in our community for homeless outreach at least once a month, and my staff is on the streets every day,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The increase of people who are unsheltered per the LAHSA Count does not reflect the reality that we see. More transparency over this process would be incredibly welcomed because we are simply not getting answers that add up.”