California Population Up, So is Homelessness

Published on June 4th, 2015

Add this to the growing number of problems California faces that more population would exacerbate: according to the biennial census, Los Angeles County has more people sleeping on the streets and in their cars than two years ago, many of them for the first time. Of the 44,359 homeless in L.A. County, only 30 percent were sheltered. The county spends $100 million annually on homelessness, but much of that sum is allocated to arrests and related police services with little directed toward meaningful solutions.

A homeless man holds his hand out
Fewer people, more jobs would help alleviate homelessness.

Among the homeless are 4,016 veterans who hope that country officials can find a way to fulfill President Obama’s pledge that all vets have housing by the end of 2015.  Because of increasing population and a decreasing supply of affordable housing, the noble goal may be out of reach.

Even rental housing in L.A. is out of reach for most residents. A recent report from UCLA found that Los Angeles has a lower median household income than comparable cities such as New York or San Francisco but only a small difference in median rents. Los Angeles is the nation’s most unaffordable rental market. Moreover, job growth in Los Angeles is one of California’s lowest. Fewer jobs mean more pressure on rental rates, driving up the price of apartment living, and forcing the unemployed into the street.

Homelessness is up, affordable housing is vanishing, good jobs are few and far between, and residents have stooped to stealing water, so scarce is that precious commodity. Yet Sacramento remains mum on stabilizing population.

Earlier this month, the California Department of Finance released its 2014 population report. Last year, the state added 358,000 residents to bring the state’s total to 38.7 million, and ever-nearer to an unsustainable 40 million. Most cities and counties registered growth with Los Angeles, the nation’s homeless capital, adding 43,000.

The solution is not, as some analysts suggest, to build more affordable housing, but to acknowledge that population growth needs to be stemmed and for officials to do all that they can to work toward that goal. In California’s case that would include urging citizens to practice prudent family planning and demanding that the federal government enforce immigration laws. Instead, no one can remember the last time the words “sensible family planning” were uttered in Sacramento, and Gov. Jerry Brown is an all-in immigration enthusiast.

See how the dramatic population growth since 1940 has changed the state’s landscape here at the California: Then, Now project. Imagine then, if you can, California in 2050 when its population is expected to reach 50 million.

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