On Wednesday, KPCC listeners and readers will find special coverage of homelessness in Los Angeles County. It’s part of a first-ever media project aiming to focus the public and policymakers’ attention on how to solve that growing problem.
Homelessness is not a new problem here, but there are big questions facing Los Angeles, O.C. and many major U.S. cities, most importantly perhaps: Why is it getting worse?
The local economy has clearly improved from the height of the recession. Jobless claims are down by nearly half in Los Angeles County. Foreclosures have plummeted and housing prices have not only recovered, but have more than exceeded their pre-recession highs in some Southern California neighborhoods. The urban center is flourishing, as is Silicon Beach.
Yet our homeless population has swelled, right alongside the region's property values. The largest unsheltered homeless population in the nation is right here in Los Angeles.
In January, volunteers counted up nearly 47,000 homeless people, some of whom were packed into shelters, but tens of thousands more were scattered under freeways, in alleyways and park benches across Los Angeles County. That’s about 12,000 more people than live in the city of Beverly Hills (roughly 35,000).
As we reported Monday, more families and women are slipping into homelessness. For the first time in its 125-year history, women and children outnumber single men at the Union Rescue Mission’s shelters.
And Los Angeles is by no means alone.
Frustrated by what seemed like government inaction, forward-looking media directors in San Francisco decided to band together to blanket their airwaves, websites and social media feeds with coverage on the homeless for one week – culminating in a day of news this Wednesday.
Spearheaded by the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED, the SF Homeless Project has swelled to about 70 news organizations.
Here in Los Angeles, KPCC, KCRW and Digital First will join them.
Among the stories and conversations you’ll hear on our air, read on KPCC's website or check out on our app:
- AirTalk will hold a one-hour discussion on the causes of and some workable solutions to homelessness that will include Los Angeles city and county policymakers, advocates and the formerly homeless. (Add your questions about the issue here.)
- On Morning Edition and All Things Considered, we’ll air a story about one community’s decision to throw money at the problem – and how that’s working.
- KPCC recent Orange County discussion on the challenges of housing the homeless is available on our website.
You'll also hear and read other stories throughout the day.
This collaboration is one small part of KPCC’s commitment to public service programming, which features deep coverage by beat reporters of some of the most pressing issues facing Southern Californians today, including: the housing shortage, gridlock and public transit, our growing homeless population and the efforts to help them, a fifth year of drought, fire risk and other environmental hazards, the first signs of rising crime, our crumbling infrastructure, safety, quality and equity in our health care system, struggling public schools and the promise and challenges of becoming a majority-minority region.