Homeless people in West Hollywood are more likely than those in greater Los Angeles to identify as transgender, to be male rather than female, to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, to suffer from HIV/AIDS and to have experienced domestic violence.
Those are among the findings of a detailed survey conducted by the city’s social service providers earlier this year. The survey involved interviews with 60 homeless people across all seven census tracts in WeHo. That is more than half the 100 homeless people identified in the annual homeless count in January by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). The data from the greater Los Angeles area does not include Glendale, Long Beach or Pasadena, which do not participate in the annual countywide survey.
Information from the survey will be used by the city’s homeless service providers to guide their work as well as being used to implement aspects of a five-year plan to address homelessness adopted by the City Council in June.
Details from the survey are as follows:
Age of the Homeless
“People who are homeless in West Hollywood continue to be younger than the population of homeless individuals in the (county),” says a report on the survey. “The average age of people who are homeless in West Hollywood is 44.70. Five percent of those surveyed were between 18 and 24 years old, 71.67% were 24- 54, 13.33% were ages 55-61 and 10% were 62 or older. In comparison, 59% of those surveyed by LAHSA in 2018 were 24-54 and 16% were 55-61. An equal percentage (10%) of respondents in both West Hollywood and the LAHSA CoC were 62 or older.
Race and Ethnicity
“West Hollywood has higher rates of white, black or African-American, and multi-racial respondents compared to the (county survey),” the report says.
Of those homeless people surveyed in West Hollywood 41.67% identified themselves as white compared to a 25% of those in the countywide survey. Other comparisons included identification as Latino/Hispanic (21.67% of WeHo homeless surveyed versus 35% of countywide respondents), identification as African-American or black (51.67% of West Hollywood homeless surveyed versus 35% of those countywide) and multi-racial (21.67% of those survey in WeHo versus 1% of those surveyed countywide).
“Forty percent of people who are homeless in West Hollywood identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and an additional 3.33% were unsure or questioning.,” says the survey report. “In the Los Angeles (county survey), only 6% of respondents identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual.”
“Individuals surveyed by West Hollywood were significantly more likely to identify as transgender (8.3%) than among the (countywide) respondents (2%),” the survey report says. “Among 2018 respondents, 73% of West Hollywood respondents identified as male, and 21.7% identified as female. Five percent of West Hollywood respondents said they were gender non-conforming. This compares to the (county) response, which was 67% male, 31% female, and 0.4% gender non-conforming.
History of Violence or Abuse
“Respondents in West Hollywood’s survey continue to have a higher rate of domestic violence or intimate partner abuse in their lifetimes than those in the Los Angeles (county survey),” the survey report says. “Among West Hollywood 2018 respondents, 48.33% reported having experienced interpersonal violence, compared with 30.0% in the Los Angeles … survey. Of those with a history of violence or abuse, 65.5% of respondents had experienced multiple forms of violence and abuse.
“In 2017, 38.6% of West Hollywood respondents reported a history of violence or abuse, and of those, 58.8% had experienced multiple forms of violence and abuse. In 2018, half of men who are homeless in West Hollywood (50%) reported experiencing violence or abuse, as did 38.5% of women, and 66.7% of gender non-conforming respondents. Of those who reported a history of violence or abuse, 48.3% of West Hollywood respondents identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In comparison, the 2017 (countywide) survey reported that 85% of people reporting a history of violence or abuse identified as straight.”
The majority of those surveyed in West Hollywood (61 .67%) said they meet the definition of “chronically homelessness.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines chronic homelessness as having a disabling condition and either being continuously homeless for one year or more or being homeless at least four times in the past three years. The report on the survey says that percentage is about the same as last year in West Hollywood and almost twice the percentage of those defined as chronically homeless in greater Los Angeles.
Reasons for Homelessness
“The 2018 West Hollywood respondents reported significant increases in unemployment or financial reasons, uninhabitable living conditions and eviction or foreclosure as reasons for their homelessness,” the report says. “Medical reasons, physical disability, and illness were reported less frequently in 2018 than in 2017. Other reasons, including conflicts with family or household members, having no friends or family available, kicked out of home due to sexual orientation or gender identification, aged out of foster care, problematic substance use, or disability remained similar in 2018 compared to 2017. These indicators align with the age, sexual orientation, and gender identity factors in the West Hollywood homeless population and may also reflect the emphasis … on prioritizing available housing for individuals with disabling illness and related costs to the public health system.”
Self-Reported Health Conditions
This year’s survey showed a major decline in the percentage of homeless people who said they had an HIV-related illness. The percentage was 8.33% compared to 18.20% in last year’s survey. In 2017 the countywide survey found 1.6% of homeless people reported an HIV-related illness. The report on the survey said this year’s decline came “after the city made an investment in HIV-specific street outreach, and continued implementation of its HIV Zero initiative.”
However, there were major increases in the percentage of homeless people in West Hollywood reporting a serious and continuing mental illness (46.66% in 2018 compared to 25% in 2017.) “Those reporting problematic drug use also increased from 11.4% in 2017 to 30% in 2018,” the report said. “Self-reported physical disability, physical illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and developmental disability did not change significantly between 2017 and 2018.”
In West Hollywood this year, three respondents said that they had performed sex work and someone else took the money, the report said. “In 2017, five individuals indicated that they had performed sex work and did not receive the money themselves. Because of the difference in the way the questions were asked, conclusion from this data cannot be accurately or fully drawn.”
In this year’s survey, 73% of the homeless people interviewed said they had been involved with the legal system, which included being in jail, prison or juvenile detention, being probation or parole or in foster care. That is a slightly largely percentage than the 68.2% who reported that in 2017.
Veteran Status and Pets
Only three of the 60 West Hollywood homeless people interviewed reported having served on active duty in the military, or in the reserve or National Guard. None of those interviewed had pets, compared to two in 2017.