The number of homeless people in Los Angeles has declined for the first time in four years.
In Los Angeles County, the number of people living on the streets has dropped 3 percent, from 55,058 last year to 53,195. The city of Los Angeles saw a 5 percent decrease in those living on the streets, to 31,516.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, on Thursday announced those latest figures, the result of the 2018 homeless count, at a press conference at the PATH homeless service center and shelter on North Madison Avenue.
"It’s encouraging, and indicates new resources voters approved are already having an impact," Lynn said in a written statement. "We housed more than 16,500 people, the most our region has ever achieved."
The declining numbers come after the first year that funds for bridge or temporary housing and homeless services were released from Measure H, a 2016 county sales tax ballot initiative that will raise approximately $355 million annually over 10 years to fund an array of homeless programs.
Lynn and Garcetti spoke in front of construction for the upcoming PATH Metro Villas, which will house 10,000 people by 2020, and is partly funded by Measure H and Measure HHH (the latter for services).
The count was taken from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25 with more than 8,500 volunteers — the largest number in the count's history.
Some other notable figures from the count: Veteran homelessness decreased by 18 percent in L.A. County, while chronic homelessness decreased by 16 percent, and youth housing placements increased by 43 percent.
On the other hand, the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time increased from 8,044 to 9,322. The number of tents, makeshift shelters and vehicles being used for shelter increased 5 percent from last year, and 32 percent since 2016. However, Lynn contends that many of those shelters are empty and abandoned.
Garcetti said the numbers represent a significant improvement from four or five years ago, a period he described as “dysfunction junction.”
“Everybody was pointing fingers,” he said. “Now, everyone’s in. But we don’t judge ourselves by the success of our peaks but by how low our valleys are. We’re bringing the valleys back up.”
There isn’t a class of people called “the homeless” but rather people who are experiencing homelessness, just as there aren’t “addicts” but people who are struggling with addiction, he said.
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“For the first time in nine years, we finally have some good news,” Garcetti said. “A breath we can take.”
Fourth District County Supervisor Janice Hahn, a co-author of Measure H, also looked to the future.
“We are still in the early stages of implementing our homeless initiatives, but these numbers show that our strategies are the right ones and we are beginning to make progress,” she said in a statement. “These results should give us the confidence to double down on our efforts. There are still more than 53,000 people on the streets and they should know that help is on the way.”
Gary Walker contributed to this story.