Lamp Community has emerged as a leading advocate for Los Angeles' chronically homeless. We partner with other organizations to increase the city's stock of permanent supportive housing, preserve affordable housing units, and protect and advance the civil and human rights of poor and homeless people living with severe disabilities.
50,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles. Los Angeles' "Skid Row", a 52-block area east of the downtown business district, has the highest concentration of homelessness in the United States. More than half of the homeless men and women in this area are chronically homeless, meaning they struggle with a mental or physical disability and have been living on the street for years.
Permanent Supportive Housing
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)- permanent, affordable housing linked to customized services - is the single best tool we have for ending homelessness among those living with disabilities. It’s far cheaper than leaving people to live and die on the street, circulating through hospitals and jails, and far more effective than emergency homeless services that provide beds and meals but do little to address the mental and physical disabilities associated with street-dwelling homelessness.
In recent years, the federal government has endorsed PSH, and cities across the country have significantly reduced their street-dwelling homeless populations by investing in this model. Providers in these cities found that they had for decades mislabeled the chronically homeless - those living with a disability who had been on the street for years - as "service resistant," when in fact they were not offering this population the right services. With the right blend of housing and wrap-around services, people who have been living on the streets for decades can transform their lives and become a part of their community.
Study after study has shown that PSH is cheaper than leaving the chronically homeless in a desperate cycle of emergency-room visits and jail stints. In big cities, the annual cost to taxpayers of one chronically homeless individual living on the street can exceed $100,000. Permanent supportive housing, which effectively ends people's reliance on emergency services, costs only $16,000 per year.
Contrary to popular belief, supportive housing does not have a negative impact on neighborhoods or property values. Housing providers frequently refurbish blighted properties for use in PSH, and the availability of PSH units moves the chronically homeless off the streets, revitalizing neighborhoods and often increasing property values.
More than 33 percent of the homeless population in Los Angeles County is chronically homeless, higher than in any other metropolitan region. But Los Angeles has yet to make a substantial financial or political investment in PSH, leaving the chronically homeless to live and die on the street at an astronomical cost to taxpayers.
A night in a Los Angeles jail costs $64, a night in a mental hospital costs $607, and a night in a general hospital costs $1,474. A night in supportive housing costs just $30. Yet civic leaders in Los Angeles continue to label the chronically homeless "service resistant," using that characterization to justify a punitive approach to the city's homeless crisis and arresting thousands for behaviors linked to their disability and to life on the street.
Los Angeles currently has approximately 4,500 permanent housing units. Of those, less than a thousand have a rich enough level of services to be considered permanent supportive housing.
Around 24,000 chronically homeless people live on the street throughout Los Angeles County. Because there is such low turnover in permanent housing, and because so few new units become available each year, there is approximately 1 permanent housing unit available annually for every 35 chronically homeless people.
By comparison, New York City, with less than half the homeless population, has 24,000 PSH units (all of them with a rich level of services) and another 9,000 due to open in the next few years.
While there is growing consensus among Los Angeles leaders, including elected officials and law enforcement, that PSH is the only way to end the local homeless crisis, the City and County's investments fall far short of reaching this goal.