New technology tracking the density of homeless populations and shelter capacity across Los Angeles County was unveiled Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting, with policymakers saying it would guide better decision-making.
Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai told the board that the data-driven GIS map identifies gaps in capacity and should be useful to policymakers at the city, county, state and federal levels.
“As a planning tool, this is intended to provide a clear road map for how we should be moving forward with respect to housing,” Hamai said.
The map’s layers color-code the number of homeless individuals in any given area — based on the 2019 point-in-time count — the number of shelter beds available, and the pipeline of new shelters and permanent supportive housing.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger called the interactive map a critical first step in being transparent about the availability of shelter beds and a tool that underlines the urgency of the situation.
Of the nearly 59,000 county residents identified as homeless in the 2019 count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, more than 44,000 are “unsheltered,” meaning they live on the streets or in cars, versus in a temporary situation with friends or relatives.
Even including new shelters slated to be opened, the county has less than 18,000 shelter beds for those 44,000 people. That excludes shelters in Pasadena, Long Beach and Glendale, which manage their own programs. It also excludes winter shelter beds opened temporarily from now until March.
“When I’m looking at the numbers … we have a huge gap,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said. “And … this is just shelters, this is just bringing in people tonight so they can have a place to sleep, a warm bed, a blanket.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the data is critical because it can confirm or upend conventional wisdom. For example, there has been a lot of focus on NIMBY — not in my backyard — residents on the affluent Westside who have pushed back against plans to build shelters and supportive housing.
“We actually have more interim housing in the pipeline than anyone else,” Kuehl said about the Third District that she represents.
That’s true, though Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Second District has the highest ratio of available beds to serve homeless individuals, according to the map data.
The board is pushing innovative solutions in an effort to build interim housing as quickly as possible. Supervisor Hilda Solis suggested re-purposing mobile classrooms as housing for homeless individuals.
However, regulations can create obstacles despite agreement on the need for speed. Barger expressed frustration over a tent shelter in downtown Los Angeles — built by Sprung and to be operated by the Union Rescue Mission — that she said is ready to open but struggling to get a certificate of occupancy.
Representatives from Barger’s office and the city are working together to resolve the issue, a spokesman later said.
The interactive map — which Hamai said would be refined and expanded over time — is available at www.lacounty.gov/newsroom/homeless-housing-gis-map/.
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