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Homeless count up

New numbers show increase in area that includes the Santa Clarita Valley

Posted: September 8, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 8, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Bret Wims, treasurer for Bridge To Home, looks for possible homeless encampments in Valencia during a former Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

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Of eight homeless service zones in Los Angeles County, the one that encompasses the Santa Clarita Valley has the second-highest growth in those who have no place to live, according to numbers recently released by county officials.

The area, which also includes the San Fernando Valley, saw its homeless population rise by 3,063, an increase of 64.8 percent since 2011, according to results from the 2013 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

“What we are seeing in this latest homeless count was not a complete surprise,” said Mary Nemick of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. “What we are seeing is the results of a perfect storm of factors that are pushing homeless numbers up.”

Those factors include the lingering economic recession, rapid increases in the cost of housing over the past few years and the end of some assistance that was provided with federal stimulus money, Nemick said in a recent interview.

“But overall we believe we are seeing enormous numbers of people who fell through the social safety net during the recession and are not able to get back into stable housing,” she said.

Much of the Santa Clarita Valley is combined with the San Fernando Valley into one service planning area by the Homeless Services Authority for the purpose of its studies.

The sharpest increase was in the area that includes the Antelope Valley, which saw its homeless population rise by 5,545, a 392.7 percent increase over 2011, according to the Homeless Services Authority numbers released late last month.

Homeless populations increased in five of the eight planning areas in the county but decreased in areas that cover southern portions of Los Angeles County.

“We did see one bright spot, which was the reduction of homelessness among veterans, which is being seen across the country,” Nemick said.

Nemick said she could only guess at why the homeless population has grown in northern portions of the county and decreased in southern areas.

“We will continue to try to understand the results over time,” she said.

Community-specific numbers for cities that participated in the homeless count, including Santa Clarita, will likely be released in the next few weeks, according to Nemick.

Tim Davis, executive director of the Bridge to Home organization that oversees the Santa Clarita Valley homeless shelter, said he also has seen an increase among local homeless individuals.

“From the very beginning of the recession in 2008-2009, we’ve seen our numbers growing every winter,” he said.

The organization has expanded its programs in recent years to meet that increased need, Davis said, and now offers more beds at its shelter, is open longer during the year, and provides other services such as a free dental clinic.

“We’ve seen that increase in need and, thanks to our community partners, we’ve been able to increase our services,” Davis said.


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