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‘The Homeless Count Always Ends Around Election Time’ ~ Skid Row Reacts to Drop In Official Figures

[dropcap size=big]E[/dropcap]arlier this month the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released results of the annual homeless count, and for the first time in four years, the new numbers showed Los Angeles saw a 5 percent decrease in homelessness within city limits.

Lawmakers used the results as a chance to celebrate the impact of Proposition HHH, last year’s successful ballot measure that was promoted as a plan to end homelessness in 10 years, while residents of Skid Row largely expressed skepticism about the numbers on social media.

According to the LAHSA, Skid Row – the 50 block radius downtown known as ground zero for homelessness, substance and mental health in America – saw a modest 7 percent decrease in homelessness. But on the streets, it’s difficult to distinguish Skid Row last year and Skid Row today.

For a long time there’s been a disconnect between lawmakers, voters and the homeless population in LA. Proposition HHH represents just the latest voter approved plan to end homeless but the conversation is still missing an important voice, the people that will ultimately prevail or perish under this new legislation–the homeless. The program is also said to be behind an estimated 4,000 units, based on the current rate of spending.

To better understand the accuracy and impact of the LAHSA homeless count, I visited Skid Row over a three-day time period. I spoke and hung out with unhoused residents and their family members, as well as community leaders, and documented these images to help paint a picture of what a 7 percent decrease in homelessness actually looks like.

(All Photos by Lexis-Olivier Ray)

Cowboy — Homeless man,  80, Vietnam Army Sergeant, civil rights activist, and former paralegal.

“Leave the homeless alone, deal with the drugs and the killings!”

Homelessness amongst veterans – which had increased over the past two years – was down 18% according to the the LAHSA survey however the senior citizen homeless population saw a 22% increase over the same year.

Jesse - Cowboy’s son (not homeless).

“The homeless count always ends around election time because they want to get numbers and quotas in at this time.  Just like police officers have to meet quotas for tickets.

They could have corrected the homeless problem 20-30 years ago. Homeless gunna always stay.”

Greg - Former amateur boxer. Homeless since age 17.

“Why does the money go to the police department before it goes to the homeless people?  What do the police have to do with the homeless? They already have enough money. Police are suppose to take care of crime, they’re suppose to take care of murder, they’re suppose to take care of assault, rape, violence. These police, all they do is mess with people sleeping on the sidewalk past 6am or for having a shopping cart that doesn’t belong to them.”

Wendell Blassingame - Central City East Resident Director.

“The city has not recognized that the only way you can do an actually true count is to take block to block, not with someone doing your survey at night taking a clicker and guessing. A survey needs to be done by social security number, and or nationality and age, without being discriminatory.

Skid Row is very versatile. Half the people that go to the library during the daytime, they’re homeless. The don’t look homeless but they’re homeless. Half the people walking the streets downtown are homeless. They interact outside of the borders of Skid Row, but when it comes back to the nighttime they come back for security because this where they can lay their head.”

RELATED: Homelessness Is So Bad This Man Decided to Chain Himself to a Fence and Go On a Hunger Strike

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