LAHSA Did Not Count the Beaches

Days before the point-in-time count at the end of January, Pacific Palisades volunteers here were told by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) NOT to count Will Rogers State Beach or PCH.

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

It was pointed out to LAHSA that Will Rogers was under county jurisdiction, so it made no sense that L.A. Recreation and Parks would count, and that Caltrans has never participated in the count.

Finally in February (after the count), LAHSA Communications Director Ahmad Chapman, responded to CTN in an email. “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 Pacific Coast Highway,” Chapman said. “While Caltrans counted on the highway, LAHSA volunteers would have counted their unsheltered neighbors near or under overpasses.”

Here’s where LAHSA ran into a problem. I’ve volunteered on the Count every year since 2015 and I told Ahmad there have been no special LAHSA Count teams in this area because that’s where this editor has counted – for the past nine years.

Chris Spitz, who is on the Pacific Palisades Community Council as well as vice-chair of the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils also wrote to LAHSA, “I’ve learned that the following beaches were not counted and include all beaches and canyon areas in Malibu; Will Rogers State Beach and nearby areas along PCH; Santa Monica Beach; Venice Beach, Topanga Beach and Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey.

Community Council President Maryam Zar wrote to LAHSA. “That a special LAHSA count team 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.”

Zar was the founding chair of the PPTFH, which began conducting the count in 2015. “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,” Zar said.

On February 21, almost a month after the count, there still had been no reply from LAHSA.

But today, February 29, LAHSA’s Paul Rubenstein Deputy Chief External Relations Officer sent an email, explaining that there had been a “miscommunication” from LAHSA to a few Homeless Count Deployment Site Coordinators in coastal areas.

According to Rubenstein, some sandy beach areas of Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Venice, Westchester, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Palos Verdes and Wilmington may not have been consistently counted.

He pointed out that beaches were counted in San Monica, San Pedro and Dockweiler Beach in Westchester.

Dockweiler is in Playa del Rey. There is no beach in Westchester, but it nice to know if there had been a beach in Westchester, it was counted.

CTN sent an email to LAHSA asking who had counted PCH. So far there has been no response.

Rubenstein said, “In total, the miscommunication affected limited areas from 33 of 3,249 census tracts, or 1% of all tracts.”

He noted that it didn’t really matter because during the 2023 Homeless Count last year, volunteers counted 25 people, two vehicles, four makeshift shelters, and two tents in the sandy beach areas of these 33 census tracts.

“Since the Homeless Count is an estimate calculated by LAHSA’s partners at USC, the incomplete data will not affect the overall 2024 Homeless Count results,” he said.

In 2022, this editor was assigned the Beach and Pacific Coast Highway—there were 15 individuals along the beach, 38 vehicles and 8 tents/makeshift shelters.

In 2023, there were 38 vehicles and two makeshift shelters in that same area. According to Rubenstein, it appears that most of the homeless living along the beach were in the Pacific Palisades area.

Rubenstein said, “While the incomplete data will not affect the overall Homeless Count results, LAHSA will conduct make-up counts of the beach areas in the affected census tracts by the end of next week to provide a more precise picture of homelessness in those communities.”

Why does a count matter for Pacific Palisades?

Tim Campbell (author of the LAHSA “audit” for the LA Alliance) was contacted by Chris Spitz, and said, that a one percent error equates to at least 700 people, and the number of people that providers are supposed to contact, and assist are based on the counts in each SPA.

“So, dropping a few hundred people from beach areas (or state parks, or the LA River, or a host of other locations) may not mean much overall, but it affects the services allocated to each SPA and the expectations for providers,” Campbell said.

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

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5 Responses to LAHSA Did Not Count the Beaches

  1. Bruce Schwartz says:

    LAHSA is spending billions of our tax dollars and Mr. Rubinstein comes up with an answers like that ? We are being duped by the ‘ Homelessness Industrial Complex’ . Pathetic!

  2. allan popelka says:

    Sue, missing 1% of tracts would be irrelevant if those tracts were random. However, based on your data and any common sense understanding of homelessness geography, those tracts have a potentially vastly higher incidence. The LAHSA answer makes no sense. There are lots of people, including the Mayor’s office, who would love to see the numbers decline and have a disincentive to have this corrected. This is a clear mistake that needs to be rectified, and you are in a unique position to do so. I suggest a letter to the editor or even an appearance at a City Council meeting.

  3. Tim Campbell says:

    Damn! All this time living in Westchester and I never knew we have a beach! The first rule of lying is to base your story on at least partial truth.

  4. Joe Gillis says:

    And several high level executives at LHASA have just been fired or quit.
    The entire organization is being audited.
    Hopefully we will get some answers.
    Great reporting. Thanks.

  5. 'Joy' says:

    Out of sight, out of mind AND out of the budget that was meant to help both the unhomed and the people trying to help them.

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