Viewpoint: Homeless Count May Have Unexpected Results for Residents

The RVs are parked in a no camping/no parking area, and the City has not enforced the signs. Now 60 percent of the homeless in CD 11 must housed in the District according to the April 1 settlement between the City of Los Angeles and L.A Alliance for Human Rights

A Westchester resident told the group assembled by the illegally parked RV’s on Jefferson, next to the Ballona Wetlands, on Saturday, “I can only live where I can afford and that should be the same for everyone.”

Although many homeless prefer living by the beach or in parks, if they can’t afford it should they be allowed to stay?

The resident’s question should resonate with everyone on the Westside because of the April 1 settlement of a lawsuit between the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights and the City of Los Angeles. That settlement could mean mandated homeless housing in your neighborhood.

According to the agreement, “City agrees to pursue an approach of equitably distributing housing and shelter facilities for PEH (persons experiencing homelessness) in their districts.”

Only after 60 percent of CD 11’s current homeless have been housed, can individuals be offered an alternative location outside the district.

The agreement means that shelter must be provided in each of the City’s 15 Council Districts and includes housing those who do not have serious mental illness or have a substance-use disorder.

The mentally ill and drug users would be under the County’s jurisdiction. L.A. County lawyers slammed the initial lawsuit brought by the L.A. Alliance in March 2020 as “having no merit.”

According to the L.A. Daily News, City officials estimate that 14,000 to 16,000 beds, costing between $2.4 billion and $3 billion, will be needed to fulfill the settlement’s expectations.

Does this mean that the bridge housing and the motels/hotels in Venice count towards their total of housing offered and that Brentwood and Pacific Palisades will then need to offer some sort of housing? That was not discussed in the settlement.

How will the number of housing units needed in each Council District be determined? Most likely that will be from the results of the February “point-in-time” countywide homeless counts (LAHSA-the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority), which have not been released.

For the past six years, this editor has joined the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and counted the homeless in this community.

Volunteers are given specific instructions, which dictate not looking into tents or darkened car or RV windows, which would have given a more accurate count.

The past two years, the cars and RVs along PCH between Gladstone’s and the Bel-Air Bay Club were counted. How many were surfers who decided to sleep in their cars overnight, so they could be the first one out on the waves? Hard to know. How many were people driving down the coast and decided to pull over and nap? Impossible to know.

And tents? How many people are in each tent? This editor learned that there are homeless who live in one tent and then use a second tent as a storage room. But for the homeless count, both tents count towards a homeless person.

This year LAHSA provided a “homeless counting” app, and it was uploaded in real time. Given that, there seems to be no reason that the results are not already available.

In an August 2020 L.A. Times story (“Does L.A. Count Its Homeless, or Make Its Best Guess? A Little of Both, It Turns Out”), the author writes: “Keeping track of the number of people who are homeless in Los Angeles is an exercise in uncertainty.

“Not only do the numbers change from year to year, presumably reflecting real shifts in the homeless population, but once published, they can change months or years later — based not on actual changes in the population, but on changes in how it’s calculated.”

Residents in CD 11 and throughout Los Angeles will be asked to house people (not the mentally ill or those with drug addictions), based on estimates from LAHSA, which uses an imprecise method of counting, and are subject to statistical error.

Additionally, every resident needs to ask, “Should Los Angeles be responsible for finding housing for everyone who moves here from Iowa, Arkansas and Florida without a place to stay?”

A homeless encampment has grown below the underpass at 405 and Venice Boulevard.

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