Homeless Deaths Increase for Seventh Year in a Row in Los Angeles
For the seventh year in a row, homeless deaths have increased in the Los Angeles area, according to a new report by the L.A. County Department of Public Health. In total, 9,765 unhoused residents have died on L.A. County’s streets since 2014. The lethal homelessness crisis shows that politicians must immediately produce more homeless housing and protect low-income tenants against excessive rents through rent control.
This month, the L.A. County Department of Public Health released another annual report about homeless deaths. The department found that at least 2,201 unhoused individuals had died on the streets in the L.A. area in 2021. In 2020, 1,811 homeless residents had passed away. Activists believe those numbers are probably higher.
Since 2014, homeless deaths have more than tripled over a seven-year period — from 658 in 2014 to 2,201 in 2021. It’s a devastating trend that’s shown no signs of reversing: 658 homeless deaths in the L.A. area in 2014, 766 in 2015, 884 in 2016, 1,027 in 2017, 1,129 in 2018, 1,289 in 2019, 1,811 in 2020, and 2,201 in 2021.
Clearly, elected leaders must act more urgently to address the housing affordability and homelessness crises, with sky-high rents fueling homelessness.
To that end, Housing Is A Human Right advocates for a multi-pronged strategy called the “3 Ps”: protect tenants through rent control and other protections; preserve existing affordable housing; and produce more low-income and homeless housing. More than ever, the 3 Ps will urgently keep people in their homes and save lives.
For example, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Housing Is A Human Right’s parent organization, buys and renovates old hotels and motels in the L.A. area and turns them into low-income and homeless housing. Since 2018, AHF has used that adaptive reuse model to quickly and cost-effectively produce more than 1,400 low-income and homeless units. Politicians would be wise to replicate AHF’s life-saving work.
In addition, Housing Is A Human Right and AIDS Healthcare Foundation sponsored ballot measures — Prop 10 in 2018 and Prop 21 in 2020 — to end statewide rent control restrictions and allow localities to pass or update rent control policies. Recent studies by Zillow, the real estate site, revealed that sizable rent hikes fuel more homelessness, and researchers at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley found that rent control will stabilize sky-rocketing rents and prevent people from falling into homelessness. Big Real Estate, however, spent more than $175 million in campaign contributions to kill Prop 10 and Prop 21.
With lives hanging in the balance, the homelessness crisis must be more urgently addressed as a humanitarian catastrophe — and politicians must come up with strategies that help the poor and working-class first and foremost. The 3 Ps, which include rent control and adaptive reuse, are effective tools that must be utilized.
Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this article, is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.