Study of Unhoused People in Three Key Los Angeles Communities Finds Numbers Did Not Grow; Population's Needs Remain High

For Release

Tuesday
July 2, 2024

A yearlong count of unsheltered people in three parts of Los Angeles found no growth over the period, although areas with substantial encampment resolution activities did see temporary drops lasting two to three months on average, according to a new RAND report.

The study of unsheltered people conducted during 2023 in Skid Row, Venice, and Hollywood found that more than half of those surveyed reported a chronic mental health condition, about half reported a chronic physical health condition, and a similar number reported a substance use disorder.

About half reported recent engagement with a homeless outreach worker or case manager. Respondents in Hollywood had more frequent contacts and higher reports of receiving assistance. Around 45 percent of all respondents reported never receiving an offer of housing or shelter while experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

“Our findings for 2023 point to signs of progress in slowing the growth of unsheltered homelessness in these neighborhoods,” said Jason M. Ward, the report's lead author and an economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “This is consistent with programs like Inside Safe and the increasing supply of both permanent and interim housing resources making a dent in the problem. However, we found evidence that the unsheltered residents remaining on the streets may have higher needs and greater levels of vulnerability on average.”

The RAND project is the largest count of unhoused people in Los Angeles outside the annual point-in-time tally managed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The county-wide count, largely conducted by teams of trained volunteers, is conducted during several consecutive evenings in January.

The RAND study, called the Los Angeles Longitudinal Enumeration and Demographic Survey (LA LEADS) Project, is conducted by the research organization's professional survey staff.

The first count was done every two weeks from September 2021 to January 2022 in Skid Row and every month in Venice and Hollywood, three communities that are known for having persistently large numbers of unhoused residents.

This second LEADS report includes results from counts done every two months in the three communities during 2023. Researchers also surveyed more than 200 unsheltered people across the three neighborhoods during August and October of 2023.

The report notes that each of the communities has exhibited varying trends in the number of unhoused residents over time since the RAND study began in 2021, with census numbers affected by both temporary factors such as encampment clearances and ongoing programs like Inside Safe that are intended to move the unsheltered into emergency housing.

During 2023, the rates of change in unsheltered residents across the three neighborhoods were not statistically distinguishable from zero. Because of policy changes in Venice around tent encampments, the share of unhoused people in the community who were living literally unsheltered (without a tent or other shelter) increased from 20 percent of the unsheltered population to 46 percent of those counted.

Looking at longer-term trends over the more than two years of data collection since late 2021, the authors estimated a rate of growth of more than 9 percent in Hollywood, nearly 8 percent in Skid Row, and no overall growth in Venice.

About half of the unhoused people surveyed by RAND researchers reported being on the streets for 3 years or longer. About two-thirds were actively looking for housing. Respondents in Venice were less likely to be actively looking for housing, experienced less time on the streets on average, and were less likely to have been last housed in California.

About half reported recent engagement with a homeless outreach worker or case manager. Respondents in Hollywood had more frequent contacts and higher reports of receiving assistance. About 45 percent of all respondents reported never receiving an offer of housing or shelter while experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

On average, 10 percent of respondents reported being employed. Three-quarters of the unsheltered people reported income below $600 per month, with incomes higher in Skid Row and among people who were employed. People living in vehicles were more likely to be employed.

The report, “Annual Trends Among the Unsheltered in Three Los Angeles Neighborhoods: The Los Angeles Longitudinal Enumeration and Demographic Survey (LA LEADS) 2023 Annual Report,” is available at www.rand.org.

Support for the project was provided by the Lowy Family Group through its funding of the RAND Center on Housing and Homelessness. Other authors of the report are Rick Garvey and Sarah B. Hunter.

The RAND Social and Economic Well-Being division seeks to actively improve the health, and social and economic well-being of populations and communities throughout the world.

About RAND

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