Homeless population increases in Los Angeles

November 23, 2015

Homelessness in Los Angeles has increased 20 percent in the last year.

According to a report by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department last Friday, there were over half a million — 564,708 — homeless people in the country, a 11 percent decrease from 2007.

Of that number, 7 percent — 41,174 people — lived in Los Angeles. New York City took 14 percent, with 75,323 people. On the state level, California had 21 percent of the entire homeless population, followed by New York with 16 percent.

Despite an overall decline around the country, both Los Angeles and New York City have seen their homeless populations grow since last year. Los Angeles saw a 20 percent growth, and NYC saw 11 percent.

In Los Angeles, seven out of 10 homeless people, an estimated 28,945, are sleeping not in shelters but on the streets, according to the report.

Cho Byung-wook, head of the Jesus Love World Mission, a church on Downtown’s San Pedro Street, has worked with the local homeless population for 16 years.

“Because of those who are released from prison or those who traveled here from out of state, Los Angeles sees an addition of about 5,000 to its homeless population every year,” Cho said. “If you go to Downtown on New Year’s Day, you can see the homeless shaking from the cold, jackets over their heads as they sleep. We’ve provided blankets bought from the help of the Korean American community in the past.”

The City Council declared a shelter crisis earlier this month to help open more parking lots and buildings to put a roof over the heads of its homeless population, but many community leaders are suggesting that the problem cannot rely on a solution only from the government.

“Now in Los Angeles, the homeless are neighbors that we share spaces with and see every single day on the streets,” said Song In-seo, a professor at Presbyterian Theological Seminary. “We need to escape from the idea that we should only help the homeless during the holiday season and begin thinking of how we can help them as neighbors.”