Los Angeles tops the nation when it comes to chronic homelessness. This has been the case for a number of years.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, one-third of the homes people in the United States live in California. A considerable percentage of that population is located in Los Angeles.

Another reality associated with homelessness in Los Angeles is that this segment of the community is now seen across the county. Homeless people are no longer found in limited sections of the city. Rather, homeless individuals and homeless encampments are seen everywhere from the more hardscrabble sections of the city and county to many of the more affluent neighborhoods.

With the continual increase in homelessness in Los Angeles, many people have questions about the situation. One question some people do have is what is it like being homeless in Los Angeles.

Sheltered Homeless Individuals

About one-third of the homeless people in Los Angeles are able to take advantage of homeless shelters or some other type of temporary or transitional housing. These people do have an advantage over people who literally spend all of their time “on the street.”

Sheltered homeless people usually are able to obtain at least one relatively nutritious meal each day. (The type of food available to them depends on what shelter they have accessed.)

Some shelters, like the Union Rescue Mission in Downtown Los Angeles, offer their guests a broader set of services. The URM provides not only a place to sleep and other types of emergency services (food assistance and clothing, for example) but also programming designed to provide long-term solutions for a homeless person.

Unsheltered Homeless Individuals

Life is coarser for a homeless person who is unsheltered. About two-thirds of the homeless’s population in Los Angeles is in this classification. They have no access to a place designed to be a residence. Instead, they find themselves living along sidewalks, in parks, or in dilapidated buildings.

A considerable number of unsheltered homeless people end up in what are called homeless encampments. A homeless encampment can spring up in the same places where individual homeless people gravitate to spend the night (and “live”).

A homeless encampment is defined as a situation when more than one homeless person comes together to stake out a place for living and sleeping. A homeless encampment may have a few people. On the other hand, a homeless encampment may have a hundred or more people. These encampments can include families, including families with young children.

Jobs and Being Homeless in Los Angeles

When it comes to understanding what it’s like being homeless in Los Angeles, it is important to understand that a percentage of the homeless population in the city and county are employed. Thus, a component of being homeless is facilitating what is necessary to go to work.

The number of homeless working poor in Los Angeles continues to increase each year. A prime reason the number of homeless working poor continues to increase in LA is because of the ever-increasing cost to rent. The lack of affordable housing in the city and county has become a major issue in recent years.

A Story of One Family

Although this is not something that happens all of the time, dying as a result of being homeless does occur in Los Angeles. One way of coming to understand what it is like being homeless is to understand the desperate situation many people living on the streets are in. This includes families, including families with very young children.

Not long ago, a family of four sheltered for the night in their van. They shut the windows and turned on the engine to permit the heater to run.

The family consisted of a mother and father, a girl who was a toddler, and a 9-month old baby boy. Together in the car, with the heat running, the entire family fell asleep. Sadly, none of them were to ever wake up.

As of this writing, the coroner’s report is not back providing final information about the exact cause of death. The coroner did confirm that the family did die of affixation. The only real outstanding question is whether these parents and two very young children died from carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide poisoning.


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.