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Proper counting of the homeless

November 03, 2009

Re "Los Angeles County's homeless population down by 38%," Oct. 29

The current HUD definition of homelessness, on which the L.A. Homeless Services Authority's numbers are based, is limited to people in publicly funded shelters and transitional housing -- or who can be found on the streets or in other places unfit for human habitation, at the time of the count.

Likely excluded this year were homeless families staying with friends or family for a few nights, staying in privately operated "pay shelters" (with multiple families crammed together on bunks), being sheltered by religious groups or paying for a few nights in a motel but then on the streets again when their funds run out.

HUD's limited definition of homelessness will be expanded at the end of the year to include most of this "hidden homeless" population. The true extent of family homelessness in Los Angeles will then be much harder to ignore.

Tanya Tull

Los Angeles

The writer is the president of Beyond Shelter, a nonprofit organization that combats family homelessness.

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