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Discussing methodologies: A nonprofit estimates that LA’s homeless numbers are significantly higher than suggested by the homeless count




County workers clear and raze a homeless encampment beside the Santa Ana River on February 20, 2018 in Anaheim, California.
County workers clear and raze a homeless encampment beside the Santa Ana River on February 20, 2018 in Anaheim, California.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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Every year, volunteers spread out through the streets of Los Angeles in an effort to estimate how many people in the city are experiencing homelessness.

And in turn, those numbers often inform decisions about policy and resources — but what if the numbers aren’t accurate?

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has faced some criticism for overlooking certain populations, for example people who might have been homeless for a short period of time during the year. A new report from Economic Roundtable tries to get at those numbers by analyzing LAHSA’s 2017 numbers using a different statistical approach. LAHSA’s homeless count that year was 52,442. Economic Roundtable’s was 102,955.

What accounts for the stark difference? What are the methodologies behind the two approaches? And what are the challenges in getting an accurate count of the homeless population?

Guests:

Paul Beeman, data scientist for the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit research organization that examined the data collected by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

Tom Waldman, director of communications for the the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority