Homeless Not Counted on Local Beaches: LAHSA Orders

Volunteers were told by LAHSA not to count the homeless along Will Rogers State Beach.

Westside Current Editor Jamie Paige wrote on February 14 (“Too Little, Too Late? Supervisors Launch Audit on Flawed Homeless Count App Despite Known Flaws”) that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors initiated an audit on homeless count software. There were issues with the 2022 app (cost $190,000), so a new one (cost $500,00) was rolled out in 2023.

Even with a new app some volunteers had trouble registering the homeless count and used paper and pencil to tally.

But, that was a small problem compared to not counting areas where the largest concentration of homeless are found on the Westside: beaches and along the highway.

This year, days before the January 24-26 count, volunteers in Pacific Palisades were told by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) that volunteers were NOT to count Will Rogers State Beach or PCH – an area they have counted the past nine years.

Volunteers were told that Recs and Parks would count the beaches at a later date and that Caltrans would count the car dwellers on PCH.

Emails went to LAHSA asking about the change but went unanswered.

Volunteers were told not to count the “red area,” which included the beach and PCH.

In the meantime, the count was done, and volunteers in this area still counted the beach and PCH but did not report it to LAHSA.

Pacific Palisades Community Council At-Large Representative Chris Spitz wrote in a February 5 email to Bryan Brown, LAHSA associate director of data management “I’ve learned that the following beaches were not counted by volunteers and/or may not have been included in the assigned census tracts for each area and may not have been otherwise counted by special LAHSA teams.

“They include all beaches and canyon areas in Malibu; Will Rogers State Beach and nearby areas along PCH; Santa Monica Beach; and Venice Beach.

“The same may be true of Topanga Beach and Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey,” said Spitz, who is also vice-chair of the Westside Regional Alliance of councils (WRAC), of which PPCC is a member.

“Can you please let us know if any of these beaches were in fact counted and if so, by whom/what entity? If they were not counted, why not?” Spitz asked.

The email was also cc’d to City officials (including Councilmember Traci Parks office and her staff), LAHSA’s System’s Components Coordinator Darick Blackshere and L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath’s office.

CTN reached out to Darick Blackshere on January 23 and asked, “Can you explain why LAHSA is not having volunteers count the homeless along Will Rogers State Beach? LAHSA said that the City’s Rec and Parks volunteers will do it, but Will Rogers is a state beach, operated by the County, so RAP has no jurisdiction on that beach.

“For the past seven years, volunteers have also counted vehicle dwellers between Temescal Canyon Road and Porto Marino along Pacific Coast Highway,” CTN said.

Blackshere sent the query to LAHSA Communications Director Ahmad Chapman, who responded on February 8 to CTN, “Our apologies for the delay. It took us some time to look into the history of this area. For the last several years, special LAHSA count teams conducted the unsheltered count at Will Rogers State Beach and Temescal Canyon Road.

“Over the last two years, Caltrans has conducted the unsheltered count along highways, including the Pacific Coast Highway,” Chapman wrote. “While Caltrans counted on the highway, LAHSA volunteers would have counted their unsheltered neighbors near or under overpasses.”

This editor responded: “There have been no special LAHSA Count teams at Will Rogers State Beach and Temescal Canyon Road. You might wonder how I’m so sure.

“I’ve done the homeless count in Pacific Palisades since 2015. That area is the area that I have been assigned to seven of nine years, including the last four. This was the first year we were told not to count.

“CalTrans has never counted along PCH in Pacific Palisades,” CTN said. “If a special LAHSA team did the count this year, I’m sure you have no trouble sharing that information. Unofficially, the Palisades still counted the beach and the highway, so we can compare numbers.

“Can you also share the Caltrans contact, so I can verify that count?” CTN asked.

Pacific Palisades Community Council Maryam Zar, wrote in a February 9 email to Chapman, “Echoing CTN’s comments in response to the hypothesis that for the last several years, special LAHSA count teams conducted the unsheltered count at Will Rogers State Beach and Temescal Canyon Rd., or that Caltrans has somehow been involved — there has been no such involvement.

“I was the founding Chair of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, under the direction of Chris Spitz [then PPCC President], who is cc’d here.

The very first time we conducted the PIT Count in 2015 for Pacific Palisades, Kim Clary was the person who spearheaded the effort – from start to finish – with her husband. They developed a mapping plan to cover the entirety of the Palisades, and since it was our first time conducting the count and we knew we had many homeless individuals on our beaches and along our bluffs, we asked to do the count in the early daylight hours and requested LAPD support for the beach and bluffs.

“It is frankly laughable that faced with no good answer, LAHSA decided to just float some ridiculous hypothesis and see if it sticks,” Zar said. “In fact, it seems the beach homeless were not counted this year (at the request of LAHSA), and that will represent an undercount for communities like ours.”

“I hope LAHSA’s solution to unforgiving statistics of homeless individuals increasing year after year across the county is not to simply undercount them. We will look forward to a better, more substantive, response to our query,” Zar said.

CTN followed up with numerous phone calls and emails, and Chapman responded February 13, “We’re still working on getting something to you. I can share as soon as I have it.”

It is now February 21, almost a month after the count. CTN and the community are still waiting.

An abandoned homeless encampment was found along Temescal Road and cleaned by a volunteer with the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness.

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2 Responses to Homeless Not Counted on Local Beaches: LAHSA Orders

  1. Tess says:

    Wow. Thanks for this information. Sounds like the housing authority is shirking their responsibility.

  2. Ira Erenberg says:

    This is journalism at its best. This is why we can’t allow journalists to disappear. You had the instinct to count the area unofficially anyway and perhaps uncovered a barrel of rotting fish. Kudos! Hold their feet to the fire.

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