LA's soaring homelessness is distorting the national statistics

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LA has nice weather in the wintertime… attracts homeless people.
Pretty much the same thing as along the western US coast.
Cities along the east coast have to shelter people during cold weather.

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Probably part of it. Are there more homeless in LA per capita or per square mile than say NYC?

I’m sure that’s one factor. A homeless person with no access to shelter in New England or North Dakota or the Colorado Rockies will quickly become a corpsicle come winter.

One question is, does mild weather attract homeless people or does harsh weather compel communities to actually deal with homelessness?


Both, methinks.

Growing up in Ohio, I saw maybe a handful of homeless people the entire time, but upon moving out to the Bay area back in the early 00’s, I was passing by them every 20 feet or so.

Now in the city, it’s like every 5 feet; it’s scary as hell to witness firsthand.


There’s also the urban legend of cities with inclement winter weather giving one way bus or plane tickets to another city with better weather to the homeless, with the idea that they won’t freeze to death, and the problem gets relocated to someone else. It is a persistent idea, and one that can’t be completely dismissed, as friends have told me they heard it directly from newly relocated people.


So I always thought “Skid Row” was a euphemism, I didn’t realize it was an actual place!

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And the best hair band of the 90s…

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Does lack of affordable housing have any part in the phenomena or is it really people flocking in from other areas? I could easily see people losing a job for this or that reason and not being able to keep up with their 3000 a month rent, and start living in their car not wanting to leave the area while trying to get back into the game somehow and it going downhill after that.

Add an insanely expensive housing market and of course there are homeless everywhere.

Part of the problem is that LA’s housing problem is worse than in most cities. Sprawling development caused the city to be very spread out. New York has 28,210 people per square mile. Los Angeles has about 8,000 per square mile. Much of LA is single family “suburban” homes and small apartment buildings.

Strict zoning and the lack of mixed use buildings has caused the formation of small business districts all over the place. The city is so large making an effective mass transit system to take people from their homes to their place of work is very difficult. The lack of effective mass transit caused a reliance on cars. Too many cars caused bad traffic. Bad traffic meant that you had to live fairly close to work in order to have a commute of a reasonable length.

Today, everyone want to live in the same neighborhoods with a reasonable commute to work. This means that demand has skyrocketed in those areas driving up housing prices to ridiculous levels. Expensive housing caused high homelessness.

The solution is:

  • The city and county need to build more homeless shelters
  • The city and county need to provide services to help people get out of homelessness: job training, mental health treatment, addiction treatment, healthcare, etc.
  • The city needs to relax zoning laws to increase housing density, especially near mass transit
  • The city needs to build more mass transit especially near low cost housing and make it cheap/free, reliable, and easy to use
  • The city needs to reduce crime in areas of low cost housing to make them more attractive places to live

The problem is that all of this is hard and costs money. City government is largely ineffective. Most politicians are just there as a stepping stone to higher office. They don’t want to work on solutions where the results may not be visible for decades. They need quick wins that provide photo ops. The city uses outdated technology with minimal automation. They also have a terrible process for awarding contracts. So, any actions the city does take are very expensive. The local press is almost gone, and provide minimal oversight. People have lost faith in the city government after numerous scandals and ineffective service and are reluctant to give them any more tax money.

In general, I’m somewhat hopeful. Local politicians are starting to treat homelessness as a priority. The people voted in higher taxes to pay for this. They also voted in taxes for more mass transit. The Olympics are helping to motivate the government to build it faster. There are plans to loosen zoning laws and develop higher density and mixed use buildings.

Give us time.

Oh lookie, San Luis Obispo… so proud.

That’s not saying much, tho.

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