LOS ANGELES — Angelenos' attitudes about homelessness are worsening, according to a new public opinion survey from Loyola Marymount University. More than 63% of Los Angeles County residents said the homelessness crisis will get worse over the next year.
“We have seen a sad decay in the direction that Angelenos think things are going,” said Brianne Gilbert, managing director of Study LA, which conducted the survey. More than 2,000 LA residents participated in the university’s 9th annual public opinion poll on homelessness that was conducted between Jan. 4 and Feb. 10.
In 2015, 69% of Angelenos thought things in the Los Angeles region were going in the right direction. This year, just 42.4% of survey respondents agreed. Public sentiment toward homelessness in particular has steadily declined since 2015, when 18.5% rated the situation as “good.” In the most recent survey, just 14% thought it was “good,” with 60.2% saying it was “poor.”
Black and Latino residents were more likely to rate homelessness poorly compared with Asian and White residents: 71.6% of Black and 66.3% of Latinos rated homelessness in their areas as as poor compared with 53.7% of Whites and 46.5% of Asians. Renters were also more likely to view homelessness in their area as poor compared with homeowners, according to the survey.
“Not only are there more homeless from those particular groups, but they tend to congregate in those neighborhoods, and we allow that to happen,” StudyLA Director Fernando Guerra said. “While you’re seeing it throughout the city, you see it a lot less in the more affluent neighborhoods, so Black and Latino communities are saying, ‘Hey, not only is it an issue. It’s a specific issue in our neighborhoods.’”
Released Thursday, the survey included two policy questions that also diverged based on whether the survey respondent was a renter or homeowner. When asked whether encampments may be cleared out regardless of shelter availability, 48.2% of homeowners said yes and 40.7% of renters said no.
A majority of survey respondents (60.2%) agreed that existing funds are best spent on building short-term shelters that would get people off the streets as quickly as possible, compared with 39.8% who thought existing funds would be better spent on long-term housing that would take longer to build. Regardless of race or age, a majority of respondents agreed that short-term shelters were the better use of existing funds, though the oldest respondents were the most supportive of temporary housing.
Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 were most likely to think the homelessness crisis will get worse over the next year, as were Black and Latino LA County residents. Just 19.4% of Angelenos said the crisis will improve, and 17.1% thought it will stay the same.
Looking at the direction LA is headed overall, households with children, individuals with higher levels of education, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, young people and men were the most optimistic, the survey found.
“Angelenos are probably the most optimistic group of urban dwellers in cities over 200,000, but you see they are becoming much more pessimistic in the direction of the city,” Guerra said. “The only solace to this is that you’ve seen the decline of optimism throughout urban America, so it’s not a unique thing that is only happening in Los Angeles. One thing that’s happening to a much greater degree here is the perspective on homelessness. There seems to be an attitude of helplessness that is more prevalent.”