Why is Homelessness Getting Worse, and What Can We Do About It?

Mike Bonin
8 min readJun 5, 2019

The homelessness crisis in Los Angeles is getting worse. After several declarations of emergency, the development of comprehensive strategies, voter approval of taxes to address homelessness, and the launch of new programs, how the hell is that possible?

Here’s the short answer: We are housing homeless people in record numbers, but people are becoming homeless more quickly than we can house them. When someone becomes homeless, it happens fast, and in a variety of ways. When someone gets housed, it happens at an infuriatingly slow place, and in narrow and limited ways.

We are going to see more tents on our sidewalks and more human misery on the streets in our neighborhoods — unless we can prevent people from becoming homeless, and until we can house people significantly more quickly and inexpensively. We can and must do both.

Scope of the Problem

The newly released numbers from the January homeless count are a stark illustration of the problem. Last year, there were 52,765 homeless people in Los Angeles County. We housed a whopping 21,631 of them and more than 27,000 found other exits to housing. Those are a huge and historic numbers, but so many more people became homeless that there are now 58,936 unhoused people in Los Angeles County, a 12% increase.

The scope of the problem is even more staggering when you drill down. In 2018, Los Angeles County housed 7,693 of its 8,267 homeless families. But family homelessness actually increased by 6% to 8,799 families. In 2018, Los Angeles housed more than 70% of its 3,886 homeless veterans, but so many veterans became homeless, that the total number of veterans living on the streets barely budged.

As bleak as the numbers are in Los Angeles, they are better than most of the rest of the state. San Jose County is up 42%, and Orange County and Alameda County are each up 43%. Ventura County is up 28%, San Bernardino is up…

Mike Bonin

Councilmember representing the Westside of LA; Director, LA Metro; Comic book fan; Dad and Husband.