Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Homelessness jumps among vets, and in Santa Monica

by Take Two®

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George Phillippi is a homeless Vietnam veteran living on Skid Row who decided to pursue social services after being contacted by Mark Meeker of the Los Angeles County Mental Health Department during the Operation Healthy Streets initiative. Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Homelessness spiked 23 percent over last year in LA County according to newly released numbers from the census count taken in January.

It's a stark reminder that the problem in the region continues to get worse, and Take Two takes slices of that figure to look at certain demographics and regions that stand out.

Veteran homelessness jumped by 57 percent over last year:

Interview highlights with Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives at United Way LA and Home For Good, a program to help homeless vets.

Do you have theories as to why this increased so much?

It points to the fragile economy right now we have in Los Angeles. If there's anything we know about the cause of homelessness, it's the ability to afford rent.

Former President Barack Obama challenged cities like LA to end veteran homelessness by 2015. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has made it a key part of his agenda.  Does this mean that they've failed?

No, I think this is all part of the process of bringing our homeless neighbors home.

I think the challenge is more serious than we assumed.

What do veterans need most right now?

The thing veterans have been asking for is a way to connect to the V.A. if they can't make it to West L.A. ...

That's been working. The numbers of housing placements have been going up, but last year we them stall for the first time in a while after some of the community contacts went away and hiring stalled out.

Homeless in Santa Monica increased by 26 percent, despite holding steady for several years before:

Interview highlights with Kevin McKeown, Santa Monica councilman and a longtime advocate for the homeless.

Did this increase surprise you?

People did notice that there was something going on over the past year.

There's been an increase in anecdotal reports of more people, and what we found is most of the increase was happening downtown and along the beach in Santa Monica.

Housing costs are high throughout the area, but Santa Monica is really expensive. Are these homeless people locals who've been priced out of their homes, or are they people coming from elsewhere?

We did find that many of the homeless in Santa Monica are not from here.

Forty-six percent said they were homeless somewhere else in L.A. County before they came to Santa Monica, and 32 percent came from out of state.

Are your services the reason homeless people are attracted to your city?

We found only 16 percent of people who were homeless came here because of homeless services. ... That just means that the rest of the 100 percent came here Santa Monica's a pretty swell place to be.

Listen to the full interviews by clicking the audio player above.

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