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Thursday, November 30, 2023

[Homeless counts in Koreatown] Estimates of homeless population are made with the number of tents

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On the night of the 26th, Steve Kang (from left), KYCC director, Yvette Kim 10 district councilor’s aide, consul Lee Hyun-seok, and LA Mayor’s aide Robert Park mark the location of the homeless tent on a mobile phone app. BY KIM SANG-JIN.

70 volunteers roamed the night streets in LA Koreatown, Mid City, Mid City West, West Hollywood, East Hollywood, Pico Union, and MacArthur Park from 8 p.m. on the 26th to the next day. Teaming up in twos and threes, they searched for homeless people living on the streets.

Whenever they found a tent, sedan, SUV, van, camper, or RV parked on the street, they turned on the pre-installed app on their phones. They used the app to pin the exact location of the homeless wandering the streets and also recorded their living condition as well as the age of the homeless. When they were able to meet a homeless on the streets, they asked if they were on the streets alone or with family.

“The number of homeless people in this area has decreased significantly compared to last year,” said Steve Kang, commissioner of the LA City Planning Commission, who walked through the country club park residential area southwest of Korean Town. 10th district deputy for constituent services Evette Kim said, “It is a positive change that homeless people do not deviate from one or two blocks from where they set up camp.”

On the other hand, the group that was in charge of the areas near LA Korean Center, Pico Blvd. and Western Ave. reported a different situation. “We have confirmed a total of 15 homeless residents, which includes tents, cars and RVs,” said James Ahn, chairman of the Los Angeles Korean Association. “The number of homeless people in this area seems to have increased. There is a big difference between the zones,” he said.

However, several loopholes were found in this survey of homeless people. The biggest problem was inaccuracy. There was no improvement in the statistical method of estimating and calculating.

On this day, many of the volunteers identified the location of homeless tents, vehicles, campers or RVs, but could not investigate the specific number of homeless people. Instead of face-to-face interviews, results were collected by mere estimates, assuming there are 1 to 4 residents residing per tent.

One volunteer said, “We cannot ignore the possibility of situations taking a turn when dealing with homeless people,” adding, “Also, the LA County Homeless Service Administration (LAHSA) wants to respect the privacy of homeless people.” He added, “Asking how many people are residing in their living space is a delicate matter.”

Chairman James Ahn also said, “It is difficult to determine the exact number of homeless people living on the streets. It’s safe to assume that the numbers are higher than the final survey results.”

Last year’s mid-term elections saw homelessness become the biggest issue, and LA Mayor Karen Bass and the County Supervisor Committee declared state of emergency over the homeless crisis. In particular, she said a new policy will be introduced based on the results of the survey on the homeless.

Specifically, LAHSA also said they have improved the system for better accuracy of the number of homeless people, location and type of residence, but nothing has changed on the streets.

The 10th district councilor’s office in charge of Koreatown stressed that they are focusing on resolving complaints related to the homeless issue.

Evette Kim said, “An activist who has been volunteering in Skid Row has been hired as a deputy and has been in charge of the homeless issue for two years,” adding, “We have provided shelter to 10 homeless people in Chateau Place tent village, and we even know the names of homeless people and their residence status in the 10th district. Mayor Bass even asked us how we deal with the issue right after taking office.”

Kim said, “The complaints that come in are mostly about homeless-related fires and homeless camps around the school,” adding, “We will try harder to solve the problem.”

Chairman James Ahn called for a more realistic response. He believes that the biggest problem is that the LA city and county governments are not on the same page to solve the homeless problem. “The problem has grown because they all show different perspectives and opinions around a given solution. With regulations in the city such as banning homeless tents around schools and in public places already in place, we should also start implementing legal force,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, LAHSA’s “2023 LA County Homelessness Survey” was conducted from the 24th to the 26th. In addition, until the 31st, a homeless under the age of 18 will be separately investigated, and 8,000 volunteers have been recruited for this purpose.

BY KIM HYUNG-JAE kim.ian@koreadaily.com