West Hollywood’s Homeless Count Surged by 31% Over the Number Last Year

Homeless person on Santa Monica Boulevard. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s on-street survey conducted Jan. 22-24 shows 131 homeless people were identified in West Hollywood, a 31% increase over the 100 homeless people counted in 2018.

That compares to a 12% increase in all of Los Angeles County, where 58,936 homeless people were identified. That count doesn’t include Glendale, Long Beach and Pasadena, which do not participate in the annual countywide survey but conduct their own count.

The point-in-time survey identified 100 homeless people in West Hollywood in 2018 and 105 in 2017, a number that has grown substantially since 2015, when it totaled 54 people.

The January count found 111 homeless people living on the streets. Another 12 were living in cars or vans or campers, and eight were living in tents or other makeshift spaces. The count doesn’t include homeless people who might be sleeping on the couches of friends or acquaintances.

The City of West Hollywood has created a homelessness initiative to deal with the growing issue. That initiative includes outreach teams with Sheriff’s deputies and people who can help address mental health and substance abuse issues. The outreach teams offer access to shelter, substance abuse treatment, health care, mental health services, and housing opportunities. They also provide assistance such as food and hygiene kits, as well as blankets, socks, and other emergency supplies.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Mental Evaluation Team has housed some of its staff members at the West Hollywood Station. That makes it easier for Sheriff’s deputies to effectively respond to an issue involving a homeless person who apparently is mentally ill.

In January, the city announced that it was the recipient of $300,000 in Measure H funding for a study of city-owned and alternative sites for bridge and permanent housing.Measure H raised the county sales tax by .5% to provide services and programs to help the homeless.

Currently, homeless local residents who seek city help are placed in temporary housing operated by city contractors such as Ascencia and Step Up on Second, which offer multiple services. Ascenia has housed 50 formerly homeless people from West Hollywood and Step Up on Second has housed 28. They include chronically homeless people suffering from severe and persistent mental illness, which make the barriers and challenges in bringing people into service and housing even greater.Tarzana Treatment Center has provided drug and alcohol detox services and shelter to 22 homeless West Hollywood residents. McIntyre House has assisted 35. NCJW/LA and the Alliance for Health & Healing have assisted residents having difficult paying their rent.

However, some homeless people have declined such assistance because it would house them far outside the City of West Hollywood in cities such as Glendale and Tarzana.

Residents who are concerned about a person who is homeless are asked to the West Hollywood Homeless Initiative Concern Line at (323) 848-6590. If your concern requires time-sensitive assistance during nights or weekends, call the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station at (310) 855-8850. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/homeless.

  1. If one looks beneath the surface, beyond the PR it is easy to see a poor quality of life. We have a broken windows concept hatching beyond nooks and crannies throughout 1.9 sq. miles, infecting each and every neighborhood. Without the usual distractions, walk around various neighborhoods and actually look at the visible lack of responsibility in keeping up one’s premises.

    There are exceptions but beautiful properties or beautifully kept properties are in the distinct minority. People are not taking pride. The sheer optics of filthy sidewalks says: WE DON’T CARE, WE WELCOME LITTER AND MORE!

    That should be the first and easy problem to solve that is within our individual responsibility and does not require law enforcement, but it does require cooperation with Code Enforcement.

  2. the mid west looks more appealing each day. The house next door to me was broken into the other day in West Hollywood West. There’s also a small grassy area at the end of our street….were homeless people have installed tents and live there. Unreal that this is going on here. This is a very poor quality of life here.

  3. The problem is not a lack of housing; it’s a 100% combination of severe mental illness and substance addiction. The federal government has no jurisdiction over mental health, so it falls on the individual states, and all of this state’s policies have failed. California has erred on the side of civil rights and misguided compassion toward the mentally ill and homeless. We need to expand the definition of “gravely disabled” and conservatorship which was diluted by Prop. 47 before we can get a grip on caring for the homeless. They won’t accept any kind of assistance offered to them, no matter how enticing we may think it is. Human beings are adaptable to whatever environment they are in and the mentally ill don’t want any disruption to what is familiar. Forcing them into treatment may appear to be a violation of their civil rights, but they are dying on the streets and significantly reducing the quality of life for the rest of us, not to mention our own safety and health.

    1. I should have said something about Prop. 47. It passed in 2014 and it reduces penalties on certain crimes, which makes it harder to get the homeless off the streets and into treatment.

      1. Actually, that is an often-repeated and erroneous claim used to explain an apparent decline in arrests for drug possession. Under Prop. 47, a law enforcement officer who sees someone possessing or using an illegal drug can arrest him, but on a misdemeanor charge, not a felony charge. Someone arrested and convicted on a misdemeanor charge can be sentenced to up to 365 days in county jail and fined up to $10,000. So why doesn’t this happen more often? One theory is that judges don’t want to send people convicted on a misdemeanor charge to the already overcrowded and notoriously badly managed county jails. A felony conviction means the person would go to a state prison, relieving Los Angeles County of the cost and responsibility for that person’s incarceraton.

        1. As I understand it, Hank, the definition of “gravely mentally disabled” was tightened in Prop. 47 making it more difficult to apply to someone who is in that state, and the rules for conservatorship were much more restrictive, which, again, leaves those who might intervene on behalf of the mentally ill with fewer options to help them.

          1. Yes “Gravely mentally disabled” is not considered a crime and one can’t be arrested for that. However, your local Sheriff’s Station’s MET team can take a mentally disturbed person engaged in illegal activity in for treatment.

    2. Absolutely. What happens when we have overly liberal people running the show (gasp I’m a moderate liberal). I have a homeless cousin with schizophrenia that the state refuses to allow my aunt and uncle to get a conservatorship role in his life to get him back on his medicine. The state would rather him roam the streets and do as he pleases than get on medicine. Law enforcement uses a cloak of, “It isn’t a crime to be homeless,” while refusing to do anything. Meanwhile, residents paying $2000-$10000 per month to live here get to live with them. I really think getting a tiny house and parking it on the street is the way to go. If we all get campers and make enough of a parking problem with them, maybe something would be done.

  4. and comically….none of you came to speak at the human services commission to speak on these topics as we went through the funding process for the last 3 months.

      1. staff is available all day for questions/comments on these topics if you work evenings. council and depts. have emails listed on city website should you ever decide to take a look.

    1. Not comical, but if you felt this was such a pressing issue that needed the community attention somehow it could have been publicized via special alert beyond the WeHo Community Calendar. Not everyone has their eye on every commission agenda.

      1. any and all city meetings are publicly posted . also very easy to find on the city website, where you can also find the dozens of providers dealing with these topics in a legal and humane way.

        1. Since this is a special area of interest to you, if might be helpful to take the lead, perhaps write an Opinion piece that Wehoville could print. Many realize the city meetings are posted, but your emphasis could be decidedly more helpful. It is “making” the connection that is so important with folks that have eyes and ears in their neighborhoods and getting additional folks involved on both sides. The city website is more opaque that you might think.

  5. How does West Hollywood compare to Santa Monica in addressing Homelessness?


    West Hollywood had a chance to nip this in the bud given our relatively small size and abundant resources. As Ross Perot once said: “If you see a snake, kill it. Don’t appoint a committee to study it.” Swift action when a problem surfaces is always preferable to dealing with the eventual, exponential proportions.

  6. I’m a relatively short middle-aged women. I’ve been assaulted by street people 5 times in the past 2 years on Santa Monica Blvd in the afternoon. They choose me because I’m a small woman.

    The other day, a man pushed me up against the wall in an attempt to get money out of me.

    I see many of these people at the Wells Fargo atm on Santa Monica Blvd, so some have money or are receiving government payments of some type.

    Those for whom living on the street is a “life style choice” do such a disservice to people who are truly in need and can be helped.

  7. Take all the religious outlets (churches, mosques, temples, et al) and force them to house the homeless. After all, some are housing illegal immigrants.

    The Sky God believers and their leaders (the Bible, Torah & Koran thumpers) operate without paying any taxes.
    The non-believers shouldn’t be subsidizing this RIC aka Religious Industrial Complex.

    Most of the houses of “worship” are empty all week. So make them take in the homeless or have their charity tax scam changed.

    1. Religious institutions do the bulk, by far, of charity all across the world, and certainly in the U.S., Michael Grace. You are assuming that if those buildings are opened up, the homeless will use them. Most will not. And those who do will leave it unfit for use for its intended purpose.

      1. They may indeed, do what you said however, there are extraordinary times and limited provisions that are controllable could be initiated at least in our immediate community. Temporary room, board and required community service tasks by those that are able and not apparently mentally compromised. These venues could be hands on by connecting mentally compromised folks to the correct facilities.

  8. Perhaps we could convert the $16 million automated parking garage next to City Hall into a homeless shelter.

  9. Like any population, not all “homeless” are the same, yet we keep trying to come up with a single solution without considering the different goals of the population. The real crisis is with the mentally ill/drug addicted individuals who have lost the ability to make reasonable decisions regarding their own self-care (“gravely disabled” is the clinical term) and truly need some form of hospitalization, medication, and treatment so they can stabilize. These are not individuals who are going to suddenly be okay just because they find housing – they are often a danger to themselves and to others and this problem is only going to increase as time goes by. There is definitely a housing crisis due to the absurd cost of living here, but that issue is hitting the population that is capable of working and paying rent but are being priced out. Why should these individuals share shelters and housing with individuals that need hospitalization? Like it or not, we need funding for both – and let’s not forget how many seniors will be homeless in 20-30 years due to extended life-expectancy and the rapidly increasing cost of living. Interesting how Ronald Reagan is the father of two of the biggest health crises of the past 35 years – AIDS and mental illness/homelessness (sorry, couldn’t resist the political calling out there, but quite a legacy).

    1. Steve, Gov. Pat Brown, at the end of his last term in office, thought it was a violation of the civil rights of the mentally ill that they be housed where they were cared for and medicated so they were functioning citizens, many of whom being able to leave during the day and live somewhat normal lives. So it was enacted into law that those state-run facilities be closed and the mentally ill be released. It was required by law, then, that the new incoming Gov. Reagan follow through with the existing new law passed by the assembly that he now presided over. Reagan predicted that what we have been dealing with since then, and the topic of this discussion now decades later, would be the result of releasing the mentally ill onto the streets. So you can thank Gov. Pat Brown for this decades-old crisis and maybe take it up with Gov. Gavin Newsom to reverse it.

      Good luck with that!

  10. We have some incompassionate people in our City. And, some who will criticize the City and call them liars no matter what.

    1. The compassion of the residents of our neighborhoods/city/state is running thin when we see the same individuals strung out on drugs and doing nothing to better their situation day after day, week after week, year after year. Then there are the mentally ill, we need to get them into facilities. Allowing them to live on the street in squalor is doing nothing to help them or our communities. We need to change the laws. This is NOT a housing crisis no matter what these self serving reports say. What we are doing is NOT working. When something isn’t working, you try something else. To keep doing the same thing over and over as the problem gets worse and as we keep throwing money at the problem is just stupid. You can have compassion but you need to think with your head as much as you do with your heart. Otherwise, you’re not doing anyone any good, least of all the people that you’re trying to help.

      1. JF1, I was composing a comment on this topic, but then I saw yours. You said it better than I was about to.

        Has it occurred to anyone that a lot of the homeless are homeless by choice? They wouldn’t take housing if you gave it to them.

    2. It’s called truth to power. I would never accuse anyone of lying or anything else unless I can prove it.

    3. Alison, compassion without logic is useless and accomplishes nothing more than makes you feel good about yourself; because you “care”, and you did something. Compassion that works isn’t always warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it looks tough and unkind.

  11. For the mentally ill, choosing to live on the street is a consequence of refusing to take the medication that will in most cases cure them of most of the issues that prevent them from holding a job.

    Allowing and even encouraging these people to live on the streets is a crime against all of the citizens of West Hollywood, particularly the women and children just trying to walk down the street without being harassed and frightened.

    For those homeless that have been offered housing in Glendale or Tarzana and refused, a jail cell in West Hollywood should be the alternative.

  12. It is high time for West Hollywood and adjacent cities to place a strict moratorium on the construction of luxury housing. Every single new mid to large luxury project I have seen across urban Los Angeles County has no more than 30% occupancy. There must be incentives given to developers to construct affordable housing options that must be legally kept affordable or this problem will increase by several orders of magnitude. In the interim, no person should be allowed to sleep in the street without prompt city intervention, or arrested and put in jail if they refuse assistance.

    1. Where do you get the 30% occupancy statistic? If that is true, I find that very interesting, but I don’t believe that is accurate.

    2. Why do developers need incentives to develop? It’s a cash business, as it is.

      Luxury housing must include affordable housing. I think the City should stop letting the businesses donate to the fund and make everybody offer the units regardless.

      Good question from Alison below.

    3. Do you honestly think – looking at the homeless just in West Hollywood – that they’re looking for an affordable home? They’re drug addicts and the mentally ill. When I can’t afford to live somewhere, I move. This situation is not about lack of affordable housing. This situation is about drugs & alcohol abuse and mental illness. To believe otherwise (and allowing the situation) is what’s fueling this ever exploding rise in bodies laying in squalor all over our city/state. Time for rude awakening.

    4. If developers couldn’t sell the condos they are building and apartments didn’t rent, they wouldn’t build. If they can’t get a return on their investment, they wouldn’t do it. They’re selling and renting and they will continue to do so as long as people are buying/renting.

      1. They can’t sell and they can’t rent so they are relying on this extended stay, illegal airbnb and other configurations to cover their investments.
        THE CITY IS OVERSOLD. The folks supposedly running the city have their eyes on what could be rather than what it is and are not serving its residents.

  13. Don’t you guys realize where we live? The entire state of California does practically NOTHING to deal with homeless people except count them and let them be. Wake up people! Nothing is gonna change it it would have. And for the record people in the bay area are not afraid to leave their homes. It’s ridiculous, tragic & pathetic what’s become of San Francisco but people do still step outside… into an uber!

    1. Exactly right “Oh no”. Los Angeles is quickly turning into the same 3rd world country that San Francisco has become. Ultra liberal policies have destroyed these west coast cities and it’s a shame to watch it happen. Maybe when things get SO bad people will demand a massive shift in policy. Until then…

  14. There are no outreach teams. That is an absolute lie being told to the public and once again I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.
    I talk to the homeless every single day. Not one of them has received a “care package” or has been approached by anyone offering help to them during at least the past two years.
    This is just another example of how the City Management, Directors and City Council believe that the Residents are so stupid that if the City keeps lying about something over and over we will believe it.
    It’s insulting and it’s shameful….not to mention cruel to the homeless.

    1. This is incorrect. I have approached two homeless people and engaged them in conversation. I passed on their names and locations to the appropriate staff at City Hall. Both confirmed that city employees had met with them, provided information and offers of assistance.

  15. Apparently whatever the city is doing, or not doing ain’t working. In fact, whatever they are doing or not doing is making it worse.

    The bottom line is, allowing people to live in squalor, passed out on the street and eating out of garbage cans is inhumane and bad for society at large. More money and more $500,000 housing units won’t manage this unfortunate condition any better.

    The answer is to change the policies and change the laws that permit people to live on the street. Fortunately we are finally beginning to hear conversations that are addressing those goals.

  16. I wish the city would enact some panhandling laws like those adopted in other cities. No walking up to people enjoying dinner al fresco. And no panhandling within 50 feet of an atm. Very scary when they are literally right there as you turn around after withdrawing money.

    1. Criminalizing the survival behavior of those who are in need only leads to incarceration and trauma, which then continues the cycle of poverty. We need direct and efficient services and more people contributing to the solution.

      1. What do you suggest Walter? Throw more money at the problem, and more money, and more money – with absolutely zero results?

        1. Exactly. In 99% if the homeless we see everyday are addicts or people with mental issues. And if you don’t see that you have your head buried in the sand. It’s not predominately an affordable housing issue as the narrative now goes.

      2. Exactly. And so we jail them? For how long? How much will that cost society? And then they leave jail, and go right back out onto the street.

        What we need is for our community to take responsibility and provide more services to the homeless, including a shelter, right here in our city. Instead of moving them to places like Tarzana (and only at their will).

      3. So when I am accosted …yes, accosted, threatened, followed, screamed at (and this has happened far more than once)…I am supposed to turn a blind eye and chalk it up to survival behavior. Awesome. Send me your address: I will get a bunch of cards printed with it and hand it to them next time. 🙂

        1. Do it WeHo J! Not until everyone’s life is effected will they change their way of thinking (or lack thereof).

  17. Too bad, you must go to these shelters: “However, some homeless people have declined such assistance because it would house them far outside the City of West Hollywood in cities such as Glendale and Tarzana.”

    If you don’t want your city to become a dangerous place, you must enforce a law that states clearly that you cannot sleep on the streets. It’s a public health and safety issue that must be enforced by police.

    Look at Chicago, Seattle, SF, Portland, etc. These places are becoming so undesirable to live in that residents are trapped in their homes unable to safely go outside to walk a dog, play with a child, etc.

    If they refuse help, they should be imprisoned but first given a few opportunities to understand what will happen if they don’t go to these shelters or find some other accommodations. I’m sorry but at some point people must find a solution. And this is from someone who’s had every possible problem a human being can have in a lifetime including homelessness. Therapy, several jobs, roommates, whatever you need to do. Do it.

    1. Incredulous! Now homeless folks believe they have a choice as to which cities they prefer to squat in? Won’t accept assistance because they don’t want to move to Glendale or Tarzana? Something critically wrong with this picture.

      1. Those who work in West Hollywood but can’t afford the cost of rents here are those who have objected to housing in cities like Glendale. Given their low income, they don’t own cars and the travel time to work is long. Most of the city’s workforce is employed at restaurants and bars and hotels and thus can’t afford to live in WeHo.

        1. My comment was directed to those currently homeless. But to respond to yours, given a choice of being homeless or a career/job change one would think the choice would be obvious. Flexibility in life is what it is about. The city workforce is another matter…feeding the beast of bars, hotels, restaurants, an endless cycle. Years ago I earned that a true sign of one’s credibility was how they treated their help. Maybe revisiting that concept would be an opportunity.

        2. And people have done this for decades. This is not something new and doesn’t explain the explosion in the addicts and mentally ill.

          1. Yes, if anyone subscribed to the drug culture, there are residual effects that will forever haunt our culture. Now there is a new opportunity with cannabis under the guise of medical marijuana. People can either fly right or become victims.

    2. You are pretty heartless. Prison for being homeless? Wow! There are some problems that can’t be cured by “therapy, several jobs, roommates, etc”

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