SCNG survey finds homelessness tops Los Angeles voter concerns

More than three-quarters of likely voters in Los Angeles, responding to an Southern California News Group poll that also found Karen Bass and Rick Caruso neck and neck in the race for L.A. mayor, said one of the most visible issues — homelessness — has gotten worse in the past couple years.

They’re not wrong.

Survey: LA voters answer 9 questions leading up to Nov. 8 election

The city of Los Angeles saw an increase of 1.7% in the homeless population in 2022. Numbers went from 41,290 in 2020 to 41,980 in 2022, according to the latest homeless count tally taken by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

While the increase was small, it came on the heels of an expensive and concerted effort by city, county and state officials to put temporary shelters and permanent housing in place over the past several years.

And several specific areas in and around the city — Wilmington, Long Beach, Inglewood — saw significant spikes.

Add to that the fact that homelessness is among the most visible issues across the city, with homeless encampments taking over sidewalks, vacant lots and city parks.

While 76.8% of voters in the poll indicated that homelessness had worsened in the city, a strong majority of respondents — 60.3% —  also listed “fixing homelessness” as the top issue facing their communities.

In recent years, this issue in Los Angeles has dominated local news headlines and has frequently made the national news as well, with dramatic footage from areas like Venice Beach.

Jeremy Minney, a 43-year-old homeless man, sorts through his belongings in a homeless encampment set up along the boardwalk in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 29, 2021. The proliferation of homeless encampments on Venice Beach has sparked an outcry from residents and created a political spat among Los Angeles leaders. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The survey involved interviewing 400 respondents in Spanish and English — using both mobile phones (66.8% of the survey) and landlines, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%. The demographics of those surveyed matched those of the region and pinpointed those likely to vote in the upcoming November 8 election for Los Angeles mayor.

The SCNG survey asked:

“Thinking about homelessness in your community now, compared to a couple years ago, do you feel the problem has gotten better, gotten worse or has it remained about the same?”

Respondents overall: 76.8% said the problem had worsened.
Republicans: 87% said the problem had worsened.
Democrats: 74.4% said the problem had worsened.
Independents: 74.6% said the problem had worsened.

The city’s 15th City Council District — which takes in San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and Watts — saw a 41% increase in people living in interim housing, according to data released by Los Angeles County on Sept. 8, with a slight drop among  those living on the streets.

Both the city and county have scrambled to open temporary shelters, including Bridge Home facilities throughout the city of Los Angeles.

Building permanent supportive housing, however, has come slowly and has been expensive.

A $1.2 billion program that was intended to quickly build housing for the city’s homeless is moving too slowly with spiking costs, according to a city audit released in February 2022. Projects built with Proposition HHH funds, a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by Los Angeles voters, cost up to $700,000 for a single homeless housing unit.

About 1,200 units have been completed since voters approved the spending in 2016, according to an Associated Press report. The effort was a centerpiece in the strategy to get thousands of people off the streets. But the audit, issued by Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, said the tally of units built so far was “wholly inadequate” in the context of the crisis.

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In his 31-page report, Galperin said the program “is still unable to meet the demands of the homeless crisis” and that the pace of the housing development was sluggish while costs continued to rise, in some cases to “staggering heights.”

The city budget signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2021 included about $1 billion for the year, focused on homelessness, according to the Associated Press.

The encampments have often caused the most consternation among city residents, with some neighborhoods experiencing block-lengths filled with tents and occupants, many of whom are drug addicted or mentally ill.

Galperin’s audit said funding from the HHH measure — the proposition approved by city voters in 2016 — includes 8,091 housing units spread across 125 projects, most with supportive services for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

About 4,200 units are under construction. Other funds in other programs are being used for another 2,369 units.

The audit indicated that new approaches that will produce projects more quickly and for less money will be needed going forward.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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