Los Angeles Officials Challenge Latest Homeless Count That Found Zero Homeless In Venice Beach

Some say the count may be inflated in some areas.
Tents line the Ocean Front Walk on June 30, 2021 in Venice, California, where an initiative began this week offering people in homeless encampments a voluntary path to permanent housing. - Homeless encampments at the famed Venice Beach has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, turning into a political flashpoint, with signs posted on trees warning of a July 2 clearance of all homeless encampments ahead of the July 4th weekend. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles officials are challenging the accuracy of the most recent count of homeless people living in Los Angeles County, which found zero homeless people in the Venice Beach area, sometimes called the “ground zero” of homelessness.

Two city councilmen, whose districts saw an increase in their homeless populations according to the count, suggested the data may be flawed.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of its homeless count, which was conducted in February.

The count found that there were about 69,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, up 4.1% from 2020. In the city of Los Angeles there were nearly 42,000 homeless people, up 1.7% from 2020.

However, the count appeared to suffer from irregularities, including a dramatic drop from 509 homeless people to zero in the Venice Beach area, an area known for its homeless problem.

“During the Count, we received several reports of user and technological errors resulting from a lack of training and poor internet connectivity,” said Ahmad Chapman, LAHSA’s communications director.

“Despite these errors, we are confident in the accuracy of this year’s homeless Count because LAHSA and its partners took several steps to account for what was happening in the field,” Chapman said.

The agency did not directly address the eyebrow-raising count of zero homeless people in the northwest quarter of Venice.

As a result, last week Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez introduced a pair of motions requesting audits of both the 2022 count and previous years’ counts as well as an evaluation of whether an outside party should conduct counts in the future.

Meanwhile, some of Los Angeles’ 15 city council districts saw a more pointed increase in their homeless population than others, the count showed.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield’s west San Fernando Valley district saw a 60% rise in unsheltered homeless people since 2020, according to the count, even though more than 200 homeless people moved to a shelter.

Blumenfield is one of the council members requesting more scrutiny of the count.

“I go out in our community for homeless outreach at least once a month, and my staff is on the streets every day,” Blumenfield said. “The increase of people who are unsheltered per the LAHSA Count does not reflect the reality that we see. More transparency over this process would be incredibly welcomed because we are simply not getting answers that add up.”

Blumenfield suggested in a statement that empty tents and RVs among other factors may have contributed to skewed results.

“A count of RVs and tents can’t assess if the owner also has a shelter bed,” he said. “I hope more work will be done to make sure these numbers are the best reflection of what’s happening in the West Valley.”

Councilman Kevin de León requested more clarity on the results showing that his downtown Los Angeles district had 231 fewer homeless people in shelters and 1,818 more people on the street than in 2020. Since 2020, De León’s district has provided hundreds of new shelter beds.

Each district must provide housing for 60% of its homeless population under a settlement in a federal court case, meaning the totals directly affect the work of council members.

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