Local cities promise aid after report reveals drastic spike in homelessness

L.A. County homelessness went up 23% in 2017 -- but more than twice that much in the Downey, Norwalk, Whittier region.  Photo |  Ray_LAC

L.A. County homelessness went up 23% in 2017 -- but more than twice that much in the Downey, Norwalk, Whittier region.  Photo | Ray_LAC

By Alex Dominguez

NORWALK – The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released their results of their annual homeless count for 2017, reporting a 23% increase in people experiencing homelessness from 2016.

According to the results of the count - which took place in January this year – 57,794 people experience homelessness in LA County on a given night; 46,874 more than the previous year’s count.

LA County’s Service Planning Area 7 – which includes the cities of Downey and Norwalk – saw a 5,189 person and 50% increase.

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Of that number, 3,442 were male and 1,730 female; a 66% and 33% increase respectively. 

Only 17 transgender individuals were counted, a 76% decrease from last year. The bulk of these stats seem to be made up of individuals of Hispanic / Latino descent.

Hispanics / Latinos were the only race within SPA7 to see an increase in population, counted at 3,666 for 71% of the tally - a staggering 148% increase from last year.

White individuals took a far distant second at 885 counted; an 8% decrease from 2016.

While a majority of those counted in SPA7 fell between the ages of 25-54 (52% of the tally and a 20% increase), those aged 18-24 and 55-61 saw huge increases over the last year, at 928 and 719 counted for 160% and 113% increases, respectively.

Veterans were tallied at 155 for a 9% percent increase.

According an official of LAHSA, the skyrocketing cost of housing in LA County – and the inability for wages to keep up with the pace of rent – can be blamed for pushing people out onto the streets.

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Specific numbers for the cities of Downey and Norwalk are not yet known and will likely not be available until mid-July, however city officials have already started responding to the currently available results.

“While the reported numbers indicate a 50% increase for SPA 7 and a 23% increase throughout Los Angeles County, we don’t yet know the specific details for the city of Norwalk itself. The increase is concerning for us, as it is for other cities in the county, and counties statewide,” said Norwalk Social Services Director Veronica Garcia. 

“We have heard from our residents, have been addressing this regional issue with the help of Social Services, Public Safety and Sheriff’s Department staff, and we’ve added to our homeless outreach program. “

Garcia continued: “We will continue to do what we can, including partnering with local assistance organizations, counselors and faith-based groups to reach out to affected individuals who are receptive to our efforts.  With the passing of Measure H we look forward to additional resources becoming available to help decrease the number of people living on the streets.”

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Downey Councilman Rick Rodriguez has long voiced his intent to work together with local organizations, charities, and religious groups in a combined effort.

“With the encouragement of Downey Mayor Fernando Vasquez, I have been continuing my prior work with community members, organizing our dedicated church members, nonprofits and volunteers to coordinate a local support system that will help our homeless neighbors secure permanent housing,” he said. 

“I am also working with the Mayor on his local mental health roundtable, and just convened the first meeting with healthcare providers and other stakeholders to address the root causes of homelessness,” Rodriguez said.