Number of Homeless Young Adults Spikes Across LA County

Tents, shelters and belongings line a street near downtown Los Angeles. (Nathan Solis / CNS)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The number of homeless young adults in Los Angeles County has risen in the last year, according to a report released Thursday — and the data does not include the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The agency that coordinates point-in-time counts of homeless individuals for LA County reported double-digit increases among young adults aged 18-24 who experienced homelessness across the county and the city of LA.

In total, roughly 4,800 unsheltered young adults were counted in late January in LA County, while a little over 3,000 were counted in the city of LA, according to the report. The multiple youth service groups that work with the county reported roughly 4,600, which includes some overlap with the data provided by the city.

All three counts amount to a rise in homelessness by about 19%, according to the report released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

This year, LA County reported a nearly 13% increase in the local homeless population and a 14% increase for the city of LA. In total, more than 66,000 unsheltered people were counted.

Data trends announced Thursday show that homeless youth in LA County are more likely female Black or Latino and are less likely to have a substance abuse or mental illness, according to the report.

One in five youth who are homeless identified as LGBT or nonconforming. The same number are community college students who cannot afford housing.

The homeless survey, specifically aimed at counting the homeless youth population in LA County, occurred nearly two months before the novel coronavirus lockdown. The fallout from the pandemic is expected to exacerbate an already rampant crisis of homelessness in California and across the United States.

Last year, 4,021 were counted. But the homeless services agency says more than 5,600 young adults were homeless, though roughly 2,800 found housing either through the county or other means.

Clementina Verjan, homeless count organizer with agency, said during a press briefing Thursday that the first homeless count surveys lumped homeless youth with the general adult population and did not provide an accurate estimate.

“When we started talking to youth service providers… they basically told us that (young people) did not congregate with adults mostly for safety reasons,” said Verjan.

That meant tailoring a youth outreach program coordinated with the county, service providers and the University of Southern California.

The majority of homeless youth (70%) were residents of LA County, while other counties in Southern California (20%), other counties in the state (6%) and out of state (3%) accounted for the unsheltered transitional age youths, who are 18 years or older along with unaccompanied minors.

Among LA County’s K-12 students, the LA County Office of Education reported roughly 57,700 homeless students for the 2018-2019 year during the point-in-time count. But at the end of the school year, the cumulative data showed the figure to be closer to around 68,000, according to the office’s homeless education coordinator Jennifer Kottke.

The most recent data showed a decline in the total number of students experiencing homelessness when compared to data from the last four years, Kottke said.

The 2016-2017 data showed over 71,000 K-12 students who fell into the category of experiencing homelessness and that began to decline the following years. But Kottke said that could be due to parents’ fear that reporting their need for public assistance could reveal their undocumented status. Kottke said that the county and the office of education do not share that type of information with the federal government.

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