Homelessness rises in Los Angeles as need for housing goes unmet, study finds

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A report published Tuesday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found homelessness on the rise in 22 cities surveyed, and particularly in Los Angeles where services haven't been able to keep up with growing demand.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors 2015 Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness found a 12.4 percent increase in the number of homeless families and a 11.7 percent increase in homeless individuals between September 2014 and August 2015. By the city's own estimates, 39 percent of those looking for shelter in Los Angeles couldn't find it. 

The survey takes the self-reported data by cities and compares it to other American cities.

The report puts Los Angeles in stark contrast with San Francisco, where the percentage of homeless families and individuals decreased and no requests for shelter went unmet. 

But it's not for lack of trying: Los Angeles led surveyed cities in beds offered and has added more new beds in the past year as well. 

The mayors' group found less extreme rates of homelessness in Santa Barbara, where homeless families increased by 7 percent in the last year, and homeless individuals decreased.

Thirty percent of Los Angeles' homeless population were reported to be severely mentally ill, about on par with the national average. 

The report cites a lack of affordable housing as the leading cause for homelessness and hunger around the country, with poverty, unemployment, and lack of mental health services falling distantly behind.

Good Marks for Food

The study also examined the state of hunger in U.S. cities. Nationwide, 66 percent of the cities surveyed reported getting more requests for emergency food assistance over the past year. The study estimates 23 percent of the demand for emergency food assistance went unmet. 

Los Angeles, though, bucks the trend here: requests for emergency food assistance went down slightly this past year — by 2 percent.

The survey also looks forward to next year. While most cities expect a moderate increase in the request and resources for food, Los Angeles shouldn't see any changes. Santa Barbara and San Francisco both expect demand for food assistance to rise. 

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