Rise in LA County homelessness brings shifts in the San Fernando Valley
Increases in homelessness in the San Fernando Valley seemed to shift slightly from the east end to the west, with a large spike in the Encino area, according to new homeless count results out this week, which showed an overall increase of 4 percent across the area.
That increase paralleled a 23 percent surge across Los Angeles County, prompting leaders to again call for more affordable housing and programs that deal with what is causing people to go without a place to live, such as substance abuse, mental illness and a lack of resources that can help veterans, foster youth and former incarcerated people to turn their lives around.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti called the number of people falling into homelessness “extraordinary,” adding that the city is up against a “historic” lack of housing and resources to grapple with the issues, despite recent parcel and sales tax measures designed to provide shelter for those in need. The data show:
• Homelessness in City Councilman Paul Koretz’s Valley portion of Council District 5, which is bounded by a small part of Victory Boulevard to the north, Lindley Avenue to the west and Sepulveda Boulevard to the east, rose by 27 percent to 1,160 people, according to the L.A. County Homeless Authority’s homeless count, conducted in January.
• David Ryu’s Council District 4, which includes Toluca Lake, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks and Griffith Park, saw a 25 percent increase to 783 people on the streets.
• In the area spanning Valley Glen, Van Nuys, Studio City and Valley Village — represented by Councilman Paul Krekorian — homelessness rose 12 percent to 1,212.
Most of those who are homeless in the Valley are in Panorama City, Van Nuys, Arleta and Lake Balboa, where there was a 10 percent spike, bringing the total to 2,047 homeless people. Most recently, homeless encampments have grown along the Orange Line pathway in Van Nuys.
But some areas also experienced drops in homelessness, including in Council District 7, from which Councilman Felipe Fuentes resigned in September. City Council President Herb Wesson became the caretaker of the district, which includes Sunland-Tujunga. Residents there have long complained of encampments along the Tujunga Wash. The council seat will soon be filled by recent election winner Monica Rodriguez.
Other areas that saw decreases include:
• Council District 3, which includes Canoga Park, parts of Reseda, Woodland Hills and Tarzana, saw the biggest drop of 16 percent to 746 people, according to the count.
• Council District 12, which includes Granada Hills, Northridge, Porter Ranch and parts of Reseda, also saw a decline of 3 percent to 879 people.
“There is no simple explanation for the geographic shift in the Valley’s population of people experiencing homelessness — there are too many variables at play in the context of one single night of counting,” said Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and CEO of L.A. Family Housing, based in North Hollywood. The organization is one of the region’s largest affordable housing developers and homeless service providers.
She said the region’s service providers have been focused on collaborating through the Coordinated Entry System, and it’s making a big difference in helping people find permanent homes.
But more needs to be done, Klasky-Gamer added.
“We need to redouble our efforts to invest in our coordinated efforts to connect people experiencing homelessness with permanent homes, both in our region and across the county,” she added.
On Wednesday, city and county officials were on hand for the grand opening of Crest Apartments, a 64-unit permanent supportive housing development located in Van Nuys.
Krekorian said such projects are worthy, but the community as a whole needs to search for more solutions.
“The results of the homeless count show that we need to focus not only on providing services to the existing homeless population, but also on finding ways to prevent families from falling into homelessness without any hope of getting back out,” he said in a statement. “Ultimately, Valley residents need to be front and center in the ongoing search for solutions to this crisis, and I believe we’re making strides in that direction. Last month, the City Council approved a budget that puts more resources than ever before toward housing and homeless services to tackle the problem in Valley communities and across the city.”