Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Disabilities Impact Most of L.A. County’s Homeless Population: Analysis

Volunteer Barbara Petersmeyer, left, looks at tents during this year’s point-in-time count, run by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.(Credit: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Volunteer Barbara Petersmeyer, left, looks at tents during this year’s point-in-time count, run by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.(Credit: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Mental illness, substance abuse and physical disabilities are much more pervasive in Los Angeles County’s homeless population than officials have previously reported, a Times analysis has found.

The Times examined more than 4,000 questionnaires taken as part of this year’s point-in-time count and found that about 76% of individuals living outside on the streets reported being, or were observed to be, affected by mental illness, substance abuse, poor health or a physical disability.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which conducts the annual count, narrowly interpreted the data to produce much lower numbers. In its presentation of the results to elected officials earlier this year, the agency said only 29% of the homeless population had either a mental illness or substance abuse disorder and, therefore, 71% “did not have a serious mental illness and/or report substance use disorder.”

The Times, however, found that about 67% had either a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder. Individually, substance abuse affects 46% of those living on the streets — more than three times the rate previously reported — and mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder, affects 51% of those living on the streets, according to the analysis.

Read the full story on LATimes.com

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