Massive Discrepancies Identified in Official Homeless Counts

The Los Angeles Times crunched data from the 2019 point-in-time count of homelessness in Los Angeles County. What they found diverged profoundly from official findings.

October 19, 2019, 1:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Homeless Encampment

Alex Millauer / Shutterstock

"Mental illness, substance abuse and physical disabilities are much more pervasive in Los Angeles County’s homeless population than officials have previously reported," report Doug Smith and Benjamin Oreskes.

"The Times examined more than 4,000 questionnaires taken as part of this year’s point-in-time count and found that about 76% of individuals living outside on the streets reported being, or were observed to be, affected by mental illness, substance abuse, poor health or a physical disability," add Smith and Oreskes.

Those findings contrast findings from the same data presented by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, the agency which conducted the survey. "In its presentation of the results to elected officials earlier this year, the agency said only 29% of the homeless population had either a mental illness or substance abuse disorder and, therefore, 71% 'did not have [pdf] a serious mental illness and/or report substance use disorder.'"

Leadership at the homeless services authority id not dispute the findings of the Times analysis, instead blaming the discrepancy on the format for the report required by federal regulators.

But wait; there's more: "The Times analysis aligns with a national study released Sunday by the California Policy Lab at UCLA, which found even higher rates in most categories. It also found that a mental health “concern” affected 78% of the unsheltered population and a substance abuse “concern,” 75%."

Monday, October 7, 2019 in Los Angeles Times

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