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Homeless Population In Los Angeles County Increasing As Pandemic Continues



Los Angeles County has seen a steady rise in the number of people experiencing homelessness over the past few years, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a sharp increase.

While there are many shelters throughout the county, COVID-19 has created a wide variety of challenges for them. Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, a nonprofit organization operating nine locations throughout L.A. County, is one of the many places unhoused Angelenos rely on for shelter, COVID-19 testing and other services.

Hope of the Valley CEO Ken Craft said their shelters, such as the one located in Van Nuys, have had to reduce their housing capacity to 70% in order to comply with the new health regulations made necessary by the pandemic.

The organization’s manpower has also been affected, as shelters across the county have been forced to suspend their volunteer programs due to the current surge in cases.

Testing is performed on a weekly basis, with resources provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Craft said, “Testing depends on the Department of Healthcare Services. Once they inform us they will be conducting testing, we spread the word to everyone at our shelters.”

If anyone at a shelter tests positive for COVID-19, the entire shelter must enter a lockdown for 14 days in order to curb the spread of the virus.

“This creates a challenge for people staying at shelters, as many of them are employed and cannot afford to miss work for 14 days,” Craft said.

Due to the lockdown requirement, many of the shelter’s patrons are faced with a dilemma: stay at the shelter and risk losing their job or leave the shelter, unable to return until the lockdown is lifted.

The county has also seen an increase in the amount of time people are staying in the interim housing provided by shelters. Prior to the pandemic, the average time spent in interim housing was approximately four to six months. The recent economic downturn has led to longer stays before people are able to find permanent housing.

Despite these challenges, Hope of the Valley was able to add 185 beds in 2020. They are also expanding rapidly to meet the new demand and will be adding an additional 600 beds along with five new locations in 2021.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count conducted in January before the pandemic even hit, there were “66,436 people in Los Angeles County experiencing homelessness” representing a “12.7% rise from last year’s point-in-time count”.

The Homeless Count for 2021 was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

In its efforts to curb the increasing challenges created by COVID-19, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has partnered with Los Angeles County on Project Roomkey, which seeks to “protect high-risk individuals, prevent the spread of the deadly virus in communities, and protect the capacity of hospitals and the healthcare system” by providing secure hotel and motel rooms to vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness.

While the housing provided through Project Roomkey is temporary, lasting approximately three months, the county retains the option to extend the occupancy agreement due to the pandemic if necessary.

Other services, such as three meals a day and medical monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms are provided on-site at Project Roomkey locations.

There are several barriers to accessing the services provided by Project Roomkey, however.

Project Roomkey only accepts individuals over the age of 65 or those with preexisting medical conditions, and they must be referred by either a homeless services provider, health care provider, law enforcement or other service providers.

Hope of the Valley operates Thrift Stores throughout San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley and Simi Valley. To donate clothing or visit one of their stores, click here. Food and clothing donations are also accepted at their Pacoima office located at 11076 Norris St., Pacoima CA 91331.

Hope of the Valley relies heavily on donations and contributions from the community in order to operate. Those looking for more information or to donate, visit Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission

Community News

L.A. Mayor Signs Camping Ordinance Aimed At Restricting Homeless Encampments



Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday aimed at restricting homeless encampments in certain areas of the city.

The ordinance, which is set to take effect 30 days from the signing date, bans camping near “sensitive” facilities including within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries, according to the  L.A. City Council agenda.

In addition, the measure also restricts sitting, lying, or sleeping as well as storing, using, maintaining and placing personal property in any public right-of-way such as ramps, driveways or bike lanes, among others.

On Wednesday, the council voted 13-2 to approve the measure before Garcetti’s signature. 

Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voiced opposition to the ordinance, with Bonin recalling his own struggle with housing.

“Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep,” Bonin said. “I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the measure helps regulate shared public spaces while “acting with compassion and purpose” to help people experiencing homelessness.

“This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said.

In order to enforce the new order, the City Council has to take action through a resolution to designate a certain area for enforcement, according to the ordinance.

The city plans to send out “street engagement teams,” along with law enforcement, to assist those experiencing homelessness in the designated encampment by providing connection to services, including interim housing. 

Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report outlining the number of shelter beds available across the county.

The number of homeless shelter beds in the L.A. region has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity, according to the agency.

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds — less than half of the estimated 66,000 people on the street countywide. 

The previous Homeless Count was conducted before the pandemic, with many housing experts and community members reporting an increase in the unhoused population in the past 18 months. 

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Community News

L.A. Homeless Shelter Capacity Up 57% In Three Years, Still Less Than Demand



Devon Miller / The Valley Post

The number of homeless shelter beds in Los Angeles has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity. 

The 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count, released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Wednesday, shows the nightly shelter capacity in the L.A. area has grown despite challenges faced by the pandemic. 

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same period.

Through “unprecedented coordination” and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding, the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives, according to  Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA.

“We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness,” Marston said in a statement. 

The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to one-to-one, according to the executive director. 

The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.

LAHSA reported these results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply. 

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression. 

However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity, according to the agency.

The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in a shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year. 

LAHSA cited that without the addition of 2,357 Project Roomkey beds and 497 Project Homekey beds, there could have been a more significant drop in the shelter count due to decompression.

Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the Count each year from COVID-19. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.

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Community News

Home Prices In San Fernando Valley Reach New High, Median Nearing $1 Million



Los Angeles Homes

The median price of San Fernando Valley homes sold during June reached a record high while sales soared 56.9% and the number of properties listed for sale lingered at low levels.

The median price was $955,000, up 28.9% from June 2020, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR).

June was the fourth consecutive month with the median above the $900,000 benchmark.

“Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that the San Fernando Valley would see the median home price inching toward $1 million,” said Diane Sydell, president of the association in a statement. “Now it seems inevitable, especially with today’s wealth of buyers, dearth of inventory, and heated competition over virtually every listing.”

The condominium median price for June was $519,000, up 12.8% from June 2020, but 3.9% below the record high $540,000 set this April.

A total of 554 single-family homes closed escrow during June, up 56.9% from a year ago and 11.5% ahead of May’s tally. It was the first month this year above 500 sales and the highest monthly total since June 2018.

The statistics for condominium sales were not as dramatic, in part because of the extremely limited supply of condominiums listed for sale, according to SRAR.

There were 725 active home and condominium listings at the end of June, the first month above 700 listings this year.

“The market has been overheated and buyer fatigue may be a factor going forward,” said Tim Johnson, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many buyers are weary of competing with unseen competitors and losing to a higher bidder even when they come to the market fully prepared to buy. ”

That may translate in buyers being a bit more cautious, which when combined with the
reopening of the economy may yield a slowdown in sales and a few more listings.

Yet Johnson stressed that a “few more listings” doesn’t go far, even if some buyers are starting to take a bit longer to jump into the market.

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