- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Volunteers who fanned out across Los Angeles County counted about 46,870 homeless people, a 5.7 percent increase from a year earlier, according to report released Wednesday that found homelessness among veterans and families fell significantly.

The annual tally in January found about 2,500 more people are without shelter this year in the county with a population of 10 million, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said.

Some 7,000 clipboard-toting volunteers went to most corners of the county as part of a three-night effort to count homeless people - the largest among similar tallies in major cities nationwide. The tally, which also made use of demographic surveys and shelter counts, is mandated by the federal government for cities to receive certain kinds of funding.

The goal was not to get an exact number of people living on the streets but rather to provide a snapshot of homelessness, said Peter Lynn, LAHSA’s executive director.

Despite the overall increase, homelessness among veterans in the county dropped by 30 percent, from about 4,360 in 2015 to about 3,000 this year.

Nearly 8,500 vets have found homes since 2014, thanks to a coordinated effort to take advantage of housing vouchers available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Administration, Lynn said.

The availability of affordable housing countywide is an ongoing problem, he said.

The vast majority of the county’s homeless - 34,527 people - are without shelter, up from 31,025 in 2015.

The number of entire families without homes fell 18 percent, the agency said.

More than 60 percent of all homeless people are between 25 and 54 years old.

Along gender lines, the report found there has been a 55 percent increase in the number of homeless women since 2013.

LAHSA officials said they consider the findings as the foundation of an action plan, rather than simply a report card.

“Homelessness responds to resources. When we have systemically applied city, county and federal resources, we see results,” Lynn said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he has proposed $138 million in the city’s budget for the coming year for affordable housing and homeless services, and noted that LA housed more people last year than any other city in the country.

The City Council in November declared a homelessness crisis, paving the way to allow people to sleep on sidewalks and temporarily live in their cars while it continues to seek ways of housing more than 28,460 transients. The city saw an 11 percent increase in homelessness since 2015.

Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Skid Row, said homelessness is not only a persistent problem but an “urgent humanitarian crisis.”

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