LA County homeless count released for first time since 2020

The number of unhoused people in Los Angeles County has increased by 4.1% since 2020, according to the latest point-in-time tally released Thursday by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

In the city of Los Angeles, the figure is up 1.7% from 2020. The count tallied 69,144 homeless people in the county and 41,980 in the city.

The count, which took place from Feb. 22-24, is an annual, mandated means for LAHSA to obtain an accurate count of the number of unhoused people in the county.

This year's count was the county's first since 2020, as last year's was canceled when LAHSA determined it was not safe to gather 8,000 volunteers amid stay-at-home orders and curfews due to COVID-19. The county received an exemption from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was not required to conduct a 2021 count.

The count may have been affected by the Omicron surge, especially the youth count with many youth centers closed, LAHSA officials said.

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According to the 2020 count, the county's homeless population increased by 12.7% over the previous year, while the city of Los Angeles' homeless population jumped by 14.2%.

In January 2019, Los Angeles County had 58,936 people experiencing homelessness, but by January 2020, the number rose to 66,433. The city of Los Angeles counted 36,165 in 2019 and 41,290 in 2020.

Between 2018 and 2020, LA County saw a 25.9% increase and the City of LA experienced a 32% increase.

LAHSA was originally scheduled to release the results earlier this summer, but postponed it in July because of a delay by HUD in validating the data.

The effort is essential to understanding how large the region's homelessness crisis has become. It must be conducted by Continuum of Care providers to receive federal funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Due to the pandemic, volunteers conducted the count this year by driving around the area, instead of some volunteers fanning out on foot.

Other changes included moving deployment sites outdoors, moving volunteer training sessions online, encouraging volunteers to minimize cross-group interactions, requiring masks and encouraging volunteers to be vaccinated.

Volunteers also used an app to collect and submit information electronically for the first time, instead of using clipboards and writing down their information physically.

This year's count was originally planned for Jan. 25-27, but the county's surge in COVID cases, fueled by the Omicron variant, forced a one-month postponement.