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Homelessness jumps 12 percent in LA over past year: report

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Los Angeles (AFP)

The number of homeless people in Los Angeles County jumped 12 percent over the past year, with nearly 59,000 people living in shelters, vehicles or on the streets, officials said Tuesday.

Despite tens of thousands of people being moved off the streets and into permanent housing in the last year, California's most-populous county was just unable to keep up with the constant rise in the number of people falling into homelessness.

"We have the largest unsheltered population in the nation and one of the largest homeless counts across America," Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said while presenting an annual report on the crisis.

"Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night."

The increase in the number of homeless is largely due to a lack of affordable housing and rising rental prices, officials said.

Lynn said the city of Los Angeles saw the steepest rise, with more than 36,000 people counted as homeless, an increase of 16 percent over last year.

"We have the least affordable housing market in the United States which presents us with a unique challenge, both in terms of scale and the scope of the crisis we're facing," Lynn said, adding that some 700,000 city resident pay more than half their income for rent.

"That's over two million Angelenos... who are essentially hanging on by their fingertips," he said.

The pressures on Los Angeles residents are such that a person earning a minimum wage of $13.25 per-hour would need to work 80 hours each week to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the city, Lynn said.

The findings are a sobering reminder of a crisis that has dogged the city for years despite millions of dollars allocated to redress the situation in a state with the world's fifth-largest economy.

"These results remind us of a difficult truth: skyrocketing rents statewide and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with an epidemic of untreated trauma and mental illness, is pushing people into homelessness faster than they can be lifted out," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

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