Homeless hunker down in their tents and shelters for the night along 8th Street in San Pedro, CA on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. Volunteers Wednesday fanned out across the city of Los Angeles to try to get an accurate homeless count in order to provide better services for the needy. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

The South Bay saw a 6% increase in the number of people living on the streets this year, according to data released Tuesday, June 4, despite local and regional efforts to reduce homelessness — including hundreds of millions of dollars spent countywide.

The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority released the results of its point-in-time homeless count, conducted earlier this year, on Tuesday, June 4. Overall, the county saw a 12% increase.

The South Bay — which includes multiple cities, from Torrance to Redondo Beach, and Los Angeles neighborhoods San Pedro and Wilmington — had 4,388 people identified as homeless when the county did its survey on a night in January. That’s a sharp increase from the previous year, when the South Bay numbers increased by 1% and Los Angeles County decreased 4%.

The number of chronically homeless people in the South Bay shot up 52% from the previous year.

The disappointing numbers come just two years into a 10-year plan by Los Angeles County to spend $355 million annually — based on Measure H, a 0.25% sales tax passed in 2017. And Los Angeles has begun spending $1.2 billion through Measure HHH, approved by voters in 2016, to build roughly 10,000 housing units. But some of those efforts in San Pedro and Harbor Gateway area have been slow due to community concerns. The latest numbers show the increased pressure on the need for housing.

“I know it’s very frustrating for people,” said Amber Sheikh Ginsberg who sits on Mayor Garcetti’s Harbor Area Homelessness Organizing Committee and heads up a homelessness working group. “My biggest worry is that people will think our services aren’t working.”

But that may not be the case: More than 21,000 people found permanent housing through a homeless crisis response system, according to the data released Tuesday, a 40% increase from 2018.

Still, nearly a quarter of those counted across the county became homeless for the first time last year, with a majority citing economic hardship, according to the data.

“I’m not surprised but I am disappointed — and sad,” Ginsberg said. “As an advocate on the ground level, I can say I’ve (also) been seeing more people this year than last.

“We’ve blanketed this county with more services than ever before,” Ginsberg added. “We’ve housed more people in the last year. The worst thing the public could do is throw in the towel.”

Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said the numbers were concerning, but not surprising.

“We are doing more than ever before, but the cost and limited availability of housing is a strong headwind,” Buik said in a statement.

Tahia Hayslet, executive director of Harbor Interfaith Services, a local service provider, blamed the lack of affordable housing and rising rents.

“The count helps to identify the types of resources that are urgently needed,” Hayslet said in a statement.

The South Bay point-in-time count, according to the data, revealed that:

  • There were 3,599 unsheltered and 789 sheltered individuals counted;
  • The number of chronically homeless individuals was 1,359, a 52 percent increase from last year;
  • Males outnumbered females by 73%;
  • 97 Native American/Alaska natives were identified, up from three last year;
  • 46 Asian individuals were identified, up from two last year.

In San Pedro, the number of homeless individuals congregating around the U.S. Post Office has frustrated some local residents.

In Redondo Beach, where St. James Catholic Church and First United Methodist Church, along South Broadway, serve meals to people during the day, some local residents have voiced their concerns at recent City Council meetings.

Resident Daniel Burns said it seems like the problem in Redondo Beach is getting worse.

“Why has nothing been done? And why does it seem like there is no plan?” Burn asked the City Council, rhetorically, at a meeting in May. “Have we tried going to the churches and maybe asking them to take a month off and see if that rectifies the situation. These are not people down on their luck. These are not people who live here.”

Monisgnor Michael Meyers, at St. James, which has been serving meals for 30 years, said the church does everything it can to prevent loitering around the property. In their experience, he said, the most at-need folks they serve grew up in the South Bay and are related to local families. More than 50 percent have three or more disabilities, he said.

“The problem of homelessness is one which has always been a problem in every culture and every age,” Meyers wrote in an email. “Today it is a reality in our life as the number of homeless on any given night in Los Angeles County is huge.”

Reporter Donna Littlejohn contributed to this article. 

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