The State of Homelessness Today

During the course of a year, nearly 1.5 million Americans will experience homelessness for at least one night.

Nearly 44,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles County — about 30% of whom are chronically homeless.

There are nearly 2 million youth who experience at least one night of homelessness every year. 40% are LGBT, and 40% have spend time in the foster care system. 80% have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lives.

There has been a 55 percent increase in the number of homeless women in Los Angeles County since 2013. That’s a total of more than 14,000 women living on the streets.

Ninety percent of homeless women in downtown LA have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and nearly half have been attacked in the last year.

“Many of the chronically homeless have been disenfranchised and on the streets for some time. When the homelessness crisis came about in the 1980s, they were in their 30s. Now, several decades later, many of them are in their 50s or older.” Ben Henwood, assistant professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and affiliate faculty member with the USC Edward R. Royball Institute on Aging.

USC Takes on the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness

The ultimate goal of the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness is to wipe out homelessness in 10 years.

Henwood’s research team with work with Skid Row Housing Trust, which provides 1,800 supportive homes to formerly homeless and at-risk people across greater Los Angeles.

A new program called Nourished seeks to create community between student volunteers and people who have experienced homelessness in Los Angeles. USC students gather with residents at a permanent supportive housing facility once a week to cook healthy recipes and eat together.

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work will launch and enhanced field placement project this fall in which 15 to 20 MSW students will participate in a practicum to combat homelessness.

The pilot study will provide 10 formerly homeless residents with weekly mental health services via iPad to smooth the transition from homelessness to permanent housing.

LA Makes Strides to Address the Crisis

LA spends about $965 million per year on health care, social services and law enforcement for homeless students.

Nearly 50,000 people experienced homelessness in Los Angeles last year, prompting city officials to declare a state of emergency and earmark $100 million to tackle the issue.

In Los Angeles, some 70% of the homeless live on the street. The estimated cost of building enough housing units to support the current homeless population in Los Angeles is $1.8 billion over 10 years.

Still, “it is 40 percent cheaper to house our most vulnerable individuals than have them go through the devastating systems of our jails and our emergency rooms.” Elise Bulk, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

In February 2017, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Los ANgeles County Homelessness Initiative, which includes 47 strategies to combat the crisis, along with $100 million in funding. The effort brings together 25 county departments, 30 cities, and 100 community organizations.

In April, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a proposed 2016-2017 budget that would increase current spending on homelessness to $138 million from $18 million, including a one-time appropriation of $120 million.


  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
  • 016 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment