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Homelessness drops 6.5% in Glendale but rises by 12% countywide; work not done, local officials say

James Rook, who has been homeless since June, 2005, is interviewed by Chris Walheim, of Glendale, wi
James Rook, who reported he had been homeless since 2005, was interviewed in 2018 by Chris Walheim, with assistance from Glendale Police Officer Steve Koszis, during last year’s annual homeless count in Glendale.
(Tim Berger / Glendale News Press)

Glendale’s homeless population decreased by about 6.5% over the past year, according to the city’s annual point-in-time homeless count. It’s a stark contrast to a 16% jump in the city of Los Angeles and 12% increase countywide.

In late January, 243 homeless people were counted in Glendale, compared to 260 people who were counted last year, according to the Glendale 2019 Homeless Count and Survey Final Report released on Tuesday.

Conducted over an evening and early morning, the count involved teams — made up of volunteers, city employees and police officers — fanning out across Glendale, with the goal of tallying every homeless individual in the community.

Despite Glendale’s slight drop, 243 “is still a lot of people without a roof over their head. Every soul counts,” said Laura Duncan, executive director of Ascencia, a Glendale-based homeless-services organization.

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Of the 17 fewer homeless individuals counted this year, Duncan said Ascencia found permanent supportive housing for nine of the most vulnerable. Between 2017 and 2018, Ascencia housed a total of 123 homeless households, which could be an individual or family. Those housed included 16 families, she added.

The numbers illustrate how those housed are quickly replaced with people who are newly homeless, according to Duncan.

“It’s still a lot of people without a roof over their head. Every soul counts.”
Laura Duncan, excutive director of Ascencia

Of those counted in Glendale this year, 46, or 33.1%, of households said they became homeless for the first time.

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And of those households, 25, or 54%, blamed rising rents for their plight, according to the report.

“A lot of people work two jobs and they still can’t afford housing,” Duncan said. “Many are living out of their cars and working.”

The need for affordable housing hasn’t been lost on Glendale city officials, who will be redirecting more of its nearly $1.4 million in state funding for homelessness initiatives toward prevention programs, said Ivet Samvelyan, the city’s community services manager.

Beginning July 1, the city will offer rapid rehousing services, as well as one-time and recurring rental subsidies, Samvelyan said, adding that it will also roll out a housing program targeting homeless youths between 16 and 24 years old.

Earlier this week, Glendale City Council members passed a budget that set aside $25 million for affordable housing development, as well as additional money for a separate rental subsidy program currently in the works. The funds will be generated from a local sales tax increase, known as Measure S, approved by voters in November.

Most of Glendale’s newly homeless — 68% — either lived, worked or went to school in the area when they became homeless, said Samveylan, noting that it’s a unique statistic.

Roughly 27% lived in Glendale for more than 10 years and 7% spent their entire life in the community.

“It’s challenging to see folks who have lived here all their life become homeless because of the rising cost of the rents,” said Samveylan, who said she knows nearly everyone on the local streets by name.

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While L.A. County’s homeless population is now pegged at 59,000, both Samveylan and Duncan lauded the county’s efforts to address the issue, pointing out that county officials placed 20,000 people into some form of housing within the past year.

Many of the resources used to get those people off the streets were funded by Measure H, a countywide sales tax increase approved by voters in 2017.

“It’s challenging to see folks who have lived here all their life become homeless because of the rising cost of the rents.”
Ivet Samvelyan, Glendale’s community services manager

Places without similar measures, such as Kern and Orange counties, saw huge jumps, of 50% and 43%, respectively, in their most recent homeless counts, Duncan said.

Glendale’s count is conducted separately from the city of Los Angeles and L.A. County, which is handled by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA. Glendale’s findings are included in LAHSA’s countywide figure, Sean Wright, LAHSA spokesman, said in an email. Pasadena and Long Beach also conduct their own counts.

Data from the local homeless census will be submitted to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires all cities to conduct a count if they apply for support funding.

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