With the homelessness crisis escalating across the US, the city of Los Angeles has launched an annual homeless census, with the goal of assessing the extent of the problem and identifying the most critical needs of those without shelter.
The three-day census, carried out largely because of increased public dissatisfaction with local authorities' handling of the problem, seeks to shed light on the challenges faced by people living on the streets, whether in cars, tents or makeshift shelters.
Recently released 2023 census data revealed a whopping 75,500 homeless people in Los Angeles County, an alarming nine percent increase over the previous year. This is a very worrying trend of late which has seen the homeless population increase by 70 percent since 2015 in the wider county and a staggering 80 percent within the city limits.
Tent settlements and the growing resentment of citizens
In the city of Los Angeles itself, approximately 46,200 individuals have found themselves without permanent residence, contributing to the visible increase in "tent settlements" along sidewalks, parks and other public spaces.
This increase has heightened public safety and sanitation concerns and further fueled growing resentment among citizens witnessing the crisis unfolding in their neighborhoods. In response to the escalating crisis, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass made a landmark announcement last month, pledging to provide housing for more than 21,000 people living on the streets.
The plan includes using hotels and other shelters to offer a temporary solution for those in dire need. Although this initiative has been met with optimism, the success of such efforts still depends on the cooperation of various actors and the allocation of resources.
The results of the ongoing homeless census, which should be released in late spring or early summer, are eagerly awaited. This comprehensive research aims to provide a nuanced understanding of the diverse needs of the homeless, informing future policy decisions and resource allocation.
As citizens demand accountability from local governments, the results of the census will play a key role in shaping the trajectory of policies aimed at alleviating the suffering of the homeless. In the face of adversity, the city's response, along with insights gleaned from the census, should at least go some way to improving the situation in LA.