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Orange County experiences dramatic rise in homelessness




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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As Orange County squabbles over how to address homelessness, a previously unreleased count found the number of people living on the streets of north Orange County is nearly 60 percent higher than the last official estimate in 2017. Anaheim, the largest city in north Orange County, has twice the homeless population estimated in that 2017 count.

The intensive census of homeless people in 13 cities was carried out with public funds by local law enforcement officers, homeless outreach workers and volunteers over a three-week period during March and April of 2018.

Experts and public officials involved in the census cautioned that the size and nature of the homeless population has likely changed in the year since the data was collected. Still, the data provides a more recent and much more detailed snapshot of the area's homeless population than previously known.

Officials have had the data for months but repeatedly declined to release it until KPCC/LAist filed a public records act request in January. The delay raises questions at a time when Orange County is embroiled in a major, county-wide legal battle over the lack of shelter space and if, where and how new shelters should be built.

An accurate count is a key measure for the fate of the county's homeless residents. Officials and nonprofits use the numbers to determine how many shelter beds and other services are needed. They also use the numbers to apply for funding to address homelessness.

Read Jill’s LAist piece here

With guest host Libby Denkmann

Guest:

Jill Replogle, Orange County reporter for KPCC who’s looked at the new homeless numbers from OC