New Study Casts Doubt on L.A.’s Annual Homeless Count

A new study is calling into question the accuracy of Los Angeles County’s annual homeless count, finding that it underestimates the number of people living on L.A. streets and provides implausible yearly breakdowns on race, gender, ethnicity and age.

"The homeless count is valuable for providing a fresh picture of homelessness," stated the report from the Economic Roundtable. "But the count data is not reliable enough to be used for comparing the number or population composition of homeless residents from different counts."

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which oversees the yearly effort, disagrees.

"While well-intentioned, the report does not reflect sufficient familiarity with how the count is conducted,” said Executive Director Peter Lynn in a statement. Lynn noted that L.A. adheres to a strict federal definition of homelessness and cannot rely on data from welfare offices or schools.

This year, L.A.’s count put the number of homeless people at 58,000. The Economic Roundtable thinks it is far higher than that.

To improve future counts, the Economic Roundtable is recommending better training for volunteers, more counting by foot, and the use of GPS technology and neighborhood decoys. It also recommends input from health care providers, schools, and other local agencies that frequently work with the homeless.

Read more at the L.A. Times


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