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Housing and Homelessness

Number Of Usable Shelter Beds In LA Has Dropped Due To COVID

Cot style beds lined up in a homeless shelter.
Project Roomkey provided a 34% increase in private shelter beds this year, but the number of usable beds fell by nearly a quarter.
(Chava Sanchez
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L.A. County did not conduct a homeless count this year because of the pandemic, but officials did tally up the number of shelter beds available to the unhoused on any given night. The findings:

  • Shelters added more shared space in 2021, but the number of usable beds decreased by nearly a quarter due to concerns about COVID-19 transmission.
  • At the same time, the number of private shelter beds increased by 34% thanks to programs like Project Roomkey.

That meant the county was able to offer temporary housing to the same number of people in 2021 as it did last year, according to the findings from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.


LAHSA Director Heidi Marston said the pandemic showed how important it is to create more non-communal space for people experiencing homelessness.

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"How do we create more ways for people to have their own private space in these areas, as opposed to keeping people in these large shelters that are oftentimes — they induce trauma, people don't feel safe or comfortable there?" said Marston.

In addition to accommodations through Project Roomkey, L.A. County added other private, temporary shelter options, like tiny homes and safe parking spaces.

But there's still a lag when it comes to the amount of permanent housing. The county has, so far, built 33,000 units this year, though that's far short of the 500,000 units that will be needed to meet current demand.

County officials also noted that Black residents, who make up about 8% of the county's population, remain significantly overrepresented in the unhoused population, accounting for about 34% of unhoused people.

"As we were looking at our interventions, we want to make sure that we are compensating and ensuring access and not further perpetuating the disparities that exist," Marston said.

View LAHSA's presentation

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