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CNS--In a county that has more than 250,000 millionaires, the number of homeless continues to increase and now the faces of the homeless have changed to include lawyers, business owners, pre-med students and other highly-educated people, it was reported Saturday. The Burbank Temporary Aid Center has experienced a 66 percent increase in requests for assistance in the last 18 months. About half of those seeking help are middle-class people experiencing homelessness for the first time, said Barbara Howell, the center's executive director.
Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission, said he is also seeing professionals and other middle-class people coming into the mission who are experiencing homelessness for the first time, including former mission donors. Experts estimate that in Los Angeles only 12 percent of the homeless find shelter each night, the newspaper reported. The remainder sleep on streets or in vehicles, parks and abandoned buildings--a practice that has become increasingly dangerous as attacks on the homeless have nearly tripled in the last decade nationwide.
In a county of more than 250,000 millionaires, about 73,000 people are homeless on any given night. About 40 percent are women and children, according to the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Unified School District, officials said, has more than 13,500 homeless children, a 35 percent increase over last year.
In Los Angeles County, and across the nation, experts expect the number of homeless people to grow significantly in coming months as the unemployment rate rises and home foreclosures rocket. About 760,000 people across the country have lost their jobs since Jan. 1. From June to August, the number of homeless families the Department of Public Social Services provided welfare benefits to increased 20 percent to almost 7,100. Similarly, the number of indigent adults, many of whom are homeless, receiving $221 monthly general relief checks has risen from about 61,500 at the beginning of the year to just over 70,000 in August.
As the county's unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in August, the number of people receiving food stamps jumped from about 640,000 to more than 673,000. Moreover, the agencies faced with the task of providing for the homeless are watching their own tax revenues and donations drop. The state recently cut about $50 million in funding for DPSS, forcing the agency to reduce staff and eliminate contracts.
Last year, 37 percent of county residents were living in households with annual incomes of about $32,000--or up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level for a parent with two children. In the City of Los Angeles, the percentage was 43 percent, one of the highest in the nation.