Who complains the most about homelessness in LA?
There were three people living on the street in Larchmont when the most recent homeless count was conducted in January. But during the first six months of the year residents there made 147 calls to the City of Los Angeles’ 311 line to complain about homeless encampments. That puts Larchmont’s ratio of complaints about homeless vs. actual people experiencing homelessness at 46, among the highest in the city. (The official estimate was actually 3.2 people living on the street.)
This isn’t just the case for neighborhoods with only a few people experiencing homelessness. Koreatown residents made 3,078 calls to the city complaining about homeless encampments during the first half of the year, more than any other neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles. For a neighborhood with a homeless population of 567, that was more than five calls per actual person experiencing homelessness in the area. Last year, hundreds in Koreatown turned out to protest against a proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood.
There’s a wide divergence in the way neighborhoods across Los Angeles approach the homelessness crisis. This year’s Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count recorded a total of 36,165 people in the City of Los Angeles experiencing homelessness — both on the street and in shelters, an increase of 16% from a year earlier.
Crosstown collected data on complaint calls made to the City of Los Angeles’s 311 service line about homeless encampments between January and June of this year. We then divided the calls into 118 different neighborhoods in the city.
We compared the number of calls against the number of unsheltered homeless people recorded in the most recent count, which is 27,221 people in LA. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority groups its homeless count by census tract. It also makes estimates on how many people might be living in a tent or a van. That results in tallies that, in some cases, have fractions of people.
We tallied how many unsheltered people live in each tract in order to get our neighborhood totals. When tracts were split between more than one neighborhood, we calculated the portion of the tract in each area. (LAHSA uses a similar method; in certain instances, our calculations differed slightly.)
Downtown, which includes Skid Row, has the largest homeless population, with 4,037 unsheltered people, according to the count. But it logged many fewer calls to the 311 line, with 3,062 in the first half of the year. At 0.75 calls per person, that ranked it as 92 on the neighborhood list of complaints per homeless.
Bel-Air had the highest ratio of calls to homeless people. In fact, the neighborhood’s recorded the number of homeless people to be less than one (0.07 by LAHSA’s tally), but residents still made four calls to 311 about them.
The neighborhood with the lowest ratio? Pacific Palisades. Unlike other wealthy enclaves, residents in the Palisades made only four calls to the city about the 81 people experiencing homelessness there, or .05 calls for every person.
When a call about a homeless encampment comes into the 311 line, the complaint is routed to the Department of Sanitation. Often, there are numerous calls complaining about the same encampment. If all goes according to protocol, the department first verifies that the encampment is located within the Los Angeles city limits and not in an adjacent area. The city then posts signage in the area for at least 24 hours, alerting people that a cleanup might be coming. But no cleanup can take place without approval from the county’s Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority. If LAHSA gives the green light, then the sanitation workers can proceed with the cleanup, a process which can involve police officers who help remove people from the area. The entire process, from call to cleanup, generally takes at least a week but can easily stretch out for longer.
The city’s process for cleaning encampments has its critics.
“I would be reluctant to pull the trigger on any kind of process that could lead to anyone losing their belongings,” said Cynthia Strathmann, the executive director of the advocacy group Strategic Actions for a Just Economy. “Whether it’s intended as a punishment or not, de facto [the cleanup] winds up being punitive for the homeless.”
Click on the arrows in the table to sort by category. Click once to see the category in ascending order, and again to see it in descending order. Use the search bar to find your neighborhood.
Complaints about homelessness vs. actual homelessness
|Neighborhood||Jan. – June 311 calls||Unsheltered homeless population||Ratio of calls per homeless|
|Hollywood Hills West||22||6.57||3.34|
|Lake View Terrace||99||56.16||1.76|
|West Los Angeles||89||76.15||1.16|
|View Park-Windsor Hills||2||4.22||0.47|
|Playa del Rey||50||142.54||0.35|
Granada Hills was one of the areas with a high number of complaints compared to the relatively small number of people experiencing homeless. It had 281 calls and an unsheltered homeless count of 65, a ratio of 4.3 calls per person, indicating that it is a raw issue for residents.
“Our council gets a lot of complaints,” said Michael Benedetto, the Granada Hills South Neighborhood Council vice president. He added that elderly residents in particular are vocal about the problem. But, he said, the high volume of calls “doesn’t seem proportionate to the actual problem I see.”
Benedetto also noted that his council has been proactive in its outreach to the homeless community and has been pushing for more services. He is an organizer for the West Valley Neighborhood Alliance on Homelessness, which seeks to bring together other neighborhood councils, so that they can pool resources.
Melanie LeBreque, a board member of the San Pedro South Neighborhood Council, said that often calls in her area to 311 don’t get a satisfactory response because of the patchwork boundaries of her area. Some people set up their camps within the City of Los Angeles, but are on land operated by either freight railroad companies or CalTrans.
“The problem: Whose jurisdiction is it?” she said. As a result, when she calls 311, she said no one takes responsibility.
“I have not seen any results.”
How we did it: We reviewed numbers from the 2019 homeless count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. We then collected data on calls into the City of Los Angeles’s 311 line regarding homeless encampments. We sorted both datasets by neighborhood. Then we divided the number of people classified in the count as unsheltered homeless by the number of calls for each neighborhood council.
When counting the number of unsheltered homeless at the census tract level, LAHSA uses a methodology that estimates how many people may be living in cars, vans and tents. LAHSA uses a separate survey methodology when calculating the entire unsheltered homeless population in the City of Los Angeles. This method also includes certain populations, such as youth unsheltered homeless, that are not counted in the census tract approach. As a result, it yields a higher overall count.
*Crosstown initially published an earlier version of this article on Oct. 7. However, that article was taken down several hours after publication because our methodology for counting the unsheltered population in each neighborhood was flawed. This article employs a more refined methodology explained above.
* In an earlier version of this article, the name of the executive director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, Cynthia Strathmann, was spelled incorrectly.
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