While Los Angeles and its surrounding county have the highest number of homeless people in the nation, the city's homeless population has declined 38 percent since 2007, according to a census by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). LAHSA attributes the reduction to a combination of increased focus on homelessness by city and county leaders, investments in housing programs, and the creation of a network of agencies focused on ending homelessness.

The "2009 Greater Los Angeles Homelessness Report" found that an average of 43,000 homeless people a day receive services from the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (Los Angeles CoC), a consortium of 200 independent homeless service providers that encompasses all but three cities throughout Los Angeles County. Factors that may have contributed to the decline in homelessness in the area, according to the report, include new and expanded programs implemented by the Los Angeles CoC. Many of the consortium's programs are funded by the county and city of Los Angeles, such as the county's $100-million Homeless Prevention Initiative, the city's Permanent Supportive Housing Program and expanded Section 8 vouchers for homeless individuals and families. Along with housing homeless families and individuals, the programs provide them with the tools and skills they need to remain housed. "Ironically, the recession may have had a counter-intuitive impact on homelessness, as the declining real estate market has also helped lower housing rental rates, giving more people access to affordable housing," said LAHSA Executive Director Michael Arnold in a statement.

The decline in Los Angeles' numbers appears consistent with similar national decreases seen in areas like New York (-30% in street homelessness), Indianapolis (-22%) and Riverside County, Calif., (-22%), which also have experienced significant reductions in homelessness between 2007 and 2009, according to LAHSA.

Read the entire "2009 Greater Los Angeles Homelessness Report" as a PDF.

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