Volunteers who spread out across Los Angeles County counted about 58,790 homeless people, a 23 percent increase from a year earlier, according to report released Wednesday that found homelessness jumped among veterans and young people.
The annual tally in January found nearly 11,000 more people are homeless this year in the county with a population of 10 million, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said.
The authority, which noted it has improved counting techniques, reported that 3 out of 4 homeless people have no shelter and are living on streets. Homelessness increased at a similar pace in the city of Los Angeles, where the count of just over 34,000 was up 20 percent.
Some 7,700 clipboard-toting volunteers went to most corners of the county as part of a three-night effort to count and in some cases interview homeless people — the largest among similar tallies in major cities nationwide.
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"The numbers are disheartening," said Dr. Ben Henwood, who teaches social work at the University of Southern California. USC researchers oversaw the count for the first time and will study the data.
Henwood said while more volunteers, better demographic surveys and broader outreach among young homeless people improved the overall effort, "it's clear that the numbers themselves have gone up."
Officials linked the worsening problem to the economic stress on renters in greater Los Angeles. They cited data from the Joint Center for Housing Studies showing that more than 2 million households in the county have housing costs that exceed half their income.
The homeless veteran population jumped in 2016, marking a reversal of gains made a year earlier by city, state and federal programs that slashed the number by a third. With the number of veterans placed into housing slightly down, the count of about 4,820 homeless veterans was up 57 percent.
Youths made up the fastest growing homeless age group with those 18 to 24 up 64 percent, followed by those under 18 at 41 percent.
While blacks remained the largest racial/ethnic group, making up 40 percent of all homeless people, the number of Latinos grew by almost two-thirds.
The only spot of hopeful news in the report was the strong increase in the number of homeless families being sheltered. Though the overall family population increased nearly 30 percent, the share without shelter was down 21 percent.
The goal was not to get an exact number of people living on the streets but rather to provide a snapshot of homelessness. The tally, which also made use of demographic surveys and shelter counts, is mandated by the federal government for cities to receive certain kinds of funding.
Santa Monica saw a 26 percent increase, bringing its homeless population to nearly 1,000, the highest number in a decade. City officials said more than half the homeless people came from other parts of the county.
New York City traditionally reports the most homeless people in the country, living primarily in its extensive shelter system, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But Los Angeles has the highest number by far of homeless people living in sidewalk tents and lean-tos or in cars and campers, and tops the nation in people living without homes a year or more.