LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Homelessness in Los Angeles County spiked by 12 percent over the past year to reach an estimated 58,936 people, according to figures released Tuesday, June 4, with the region’s housing costs outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities can find them shelter.

According to figures released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, nearly three-quarters of homeless people are living in cars, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

“We have the largest unsheltered population in the nation and one of the largest homeless counts across America. Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night,” according to LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn.

The city of Los Angeles saw a 16 percent increase in its numbers.

Though the number of chronically homeless individuals has increased by 17 percent, demographers and statisticians responsible for the count said they believe the real issue is the inflow of newly homeless people.

Phil Ansell, who runs the county’s Homeless Initiative said it may seem counterintuitive, but “a booming economy can actually lead to an increase in homelessness.”

He said that in a growing economy, rental rates have outpaced wages, particularly for people living at the margins and making minimum wage. A minimum-wage employee would have to work 79 hours a week at $13.25 per hour to afford the rent in an average one-bedroom apartment, Lynn said.

The numbers are up despite tens of thousands of people who have moved off the streets and into permanent housing. In the last year alone, the county has helped 21,631 people find permanent homes and another 27,080 who were homeless at some point during the year were able to lift themselves out of homelessness, according to the data.

But officials say more needs to be done to increase the supply of affordable housing and prevent other families from falling into homelessness. Los Angeles County officials said they are adding strategies geared at combating economic factors.

When the Board of Supervisors approved $460 million in Measure H spending on homelessness three weeks ago, it focused on finding ways to offset rising rental rates and provide opportunities for steady employment through an employment task force and jobs training program.

County officials have backed a bill to speed conversions of motels into supportive housing units and is considering housing homeless veterans at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall downtown, among other local efforts to increase the amount of shelter space, bridge housing and permanent supportive housing units.

The county has also put a 3 percent cap on rental increases in unincorporated areas and is backing statewide legislation to limit rents and prevent landlords from unjustly evicting tenants. However, California voters rejected a 2018 proposal to give local governments more latitude to enact rent controls.

There is a pipeline of more than 10,000 affordable units, but only 1,397 are on track to be available in fiscal year 2019-20. However, Ansell said, the state can take action immediately on three key issues that could help alleviate the problem sooner, including pending legislation prohibiting rent gouging, evictions without cause and discrimination against renters with housing subsidies.

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Imagine this: you have a stray cat who comes into your yard every now and then looking for food. At first you ignore it but the cat is persistent and returns occasionally. You start to feel bad for it so you leave out a bowl of water and some food. The cat starts coming around more often because why wouldn't it? It now has a place where it can get a free meal. You're ok with this since it's just one cat and it isn't harming anything. But next time the cat comes around it brings a buddy. Aw cute he's got a little friend. "Here you go little guy you can have some food too". Its just two cats so what's the harm? Well time passes and little by little you've got more and more cats coming into your yard. It wasn't bad when there was only one or who but now there's a lot of noise. They're deficating on your porch. They're scratching up your screen door. Your kid was outside playing and tried to pet one and got bit. Uh oh this is a problem now. But there's too many cats to just shoo away. By being nice you've actually created a situation that has become a problem for you and your neighbors. So what do you do? You stop giving them food and water. You take out the hose and spray them as soon as they set food in your yard. You call animal control. By taking a stand you've corrected the problem. Now I'm not saying bums are like cats. They're human beings obviously. But by giving handouts you've enabled them. Police are no longer able to clear them out. Safe shoot-up sites and leniency with drug possession/use makes it easy to stay addicted. They can sleep wherever they want, harass who they want, and they know little to no action will be taken against them. We need to stop this now before it gets out of our control. The mayor of Los Angeles and the governor are not helping. They want more tax money to "end homelessness" but the numbers are just increasing. It's time to get tough or else human waste and needles on the streets, property crimes, disease outbreaks, and tent cities will be a permanent fixture in the city and county of Los Angeles.

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