Los Angeles accused of fabricating artificially low homelessness numbers

The Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, a joint commission created by the city and county of Los Angeles, released a report this week that was upbeat, claiming that the county had witnessed an increase in its homeless population of “only” 4.1percent between 2020 and 2022, a significant dip from previous years. However, the report was swiftly condemned by homelessness advocates and homeless individuals as wildly out of touch with reality, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles found several areas where the report was plainly incorrect.

Jessica Rogers, a volunteer who helped LAHSA perform its count this year, told KCBS that “LAHSA did not get the count right. Nowhere close. Nowhere near.” She told KCBS that when she went to help count the homeless in February, she was “scared for her life.”

In one area, she claims that she reported a count of 297 homeless individuals, but the LAHSA report inexplicably stated that zero homeless individuals lived in that area. Rogers stated that she tried to report the numbers through the counting app provided by LAHSA, but it repeatedly crashed, so she texted in the number.

“I remember very well what I saw and where I saw it and what it was like,” Rogers said. “And to find out that LAHSA recorded zero people on the streets that night is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.”

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Dan Flamming, president of the Economic Roundtable nonprofit, told KCBS that “Yes, we’re questioning some of the numbers,” and specifically pointed out that, according to the report, 335 areas that housed homeless individuals in 2020 were reported to have zero homeless individuals in 2022. More importantly, Flamming states what is obvious: the numbers do not accurately reflect the extent of the growth of the homelessness problem that is clearly visible driving around the city.

Jay Handel, chair of the homelessness committee for the LA Neighborhood Councils, said that he would not rule out artificial manipulation of the numbers by LAHSA, which has been under fire for not doing enough to fix the homelessness problem in the area. “What do they say? Numbers don’t lie but people lie,” Handel said. “I wouldn’t count it out. Knowing how unhappy the county and city are with LAHSA it would not shock me.”

LAHSA chief programs officer Molly Rysman vehemently denied any manipulation of the numbers, but did state that the app that was used in the previous count may have been a problem. “I wouldn’t say it didn’t work. There were some challenges,” Rysman said.

Rysman also claimed, without evidence, that the 297 individuals counted by Rogers may have been counted in another area of the city, and insisted that the count this year was accurate.

“Our goal is to get a regional estimate. Assigning the data per census track was complicated this year because of technological issues. We believe we got the best regional estimate we could,” Rysman said.

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