Homelessness jumped 20 percent in the City of Los Angeles this year, according to numbers released by an independent agency Wednesday.
Los Angeles volunteers counted 34,189 homeless individuals in the city in 2017 compared to 28,464 in 2016, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Volunteers counted 1,160 homeless individuals in Council District 5, where UCLA and Westwood reside, which is 27 percent more.
Community volunteers conduct the homeless count over the last 10 days of January every year. Each city district conducts its own count and neighborhood councils within each district pool their tallies together for the overall count.
The Westwood Neighborhood Council and the Westwood Community Council led the count in Westwood on Jan. 25. Lisa Chapman, president of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, estimated the number of homeless individuals in Westwood to have increased by 22 percent, but could not give exact numbers before verifying them with LAHSA.
Chapman said around 100 volunteers separated into groups of four or five and counted every homeless individual in an area that extends from Sunset Boulevard to the north to Santa Monica Boulevard in the south.
This year, Westwood volunteers started their count at 11 p.m. so they could count individuals who do not come out into the streets until long after buildings close, Chapman said.
“We decided to start the count later so we could count the people that tend to shelter in building spaces,” she said.
Chapman said the neighborhood council is considering starting the count as late as 5 a.m. in the morning to get a more complete count.
Chapman, who also heads the neighborhood council’s homeless task force, said Los Angeles and its various districts participate in the count because the results determine federal funding for the city’s homelessness programs.
She added that while she thinks the city should supply more permanent housing options for homeless individuals, local residents should also take a more active role in helping solve homelessness.
“Having it just go away is not the answer,” she said. “Moving it to some other community is not the answer. And it’s not helping us as a community.”