The U.S. economy may be recovering, but it's not evident on the streets of Los Angeles County. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the number of homeless people increased from 50,214 in 2011 to 58,423 in 2013. That includes the count for the city of Los Angeles, where the number increased from 25,539 to 29,682.
Even as jobs begin to return, the desperate plight of so many people demands creative and focused attention. It's a challenge worthy of a new mayor and of renewed commitment from the county Board of Supervisors.
Over the last few years, millions of dollars have flowed into programs administered by the city, the county and their private partners, most notably the Home for Good housing initiative, run by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce. Officials say the homeless count would be even higher if those programs had not been in place. But the persistence of homelessness suggests that services need to be intensified, better coordinated and more innovative.
One place to start: Service providers should target the right people for the right resources. Permanent supportive housing, with its many onsite health and social services, must go only to the chronically homeless who are also suffering at least one substantial mental or physical disability. And county authorities need to reassess why half the people who are placed in subsidized transitional housing programs — with a two-year maximum stay — return to the streets.