According to a report by the New York Times, black people make up only 8% of L.A. County’s population, but 42% of homeless Angelenos are black1. The report highlights how systemic racism and discrimination have contributed to this disparity. Source
The criminal justice system, the history of redlining, and modern-day housing discrimination have all played a role in the fragmentation of black communities in the city, fueling displacement and resulting in tens of thousands of black people losing their homes. Source
It is important to note that this is not just a problem in Los Angeles. Nationally, black people account for 13.4% of the population but are 39.8% of the homeless population. A report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found racism to be the root cause of black homelessness, saying that black Angelenos continue to face discrimination in many areas. Source
Homelessness is Los Angeles’s defining crisis. Income inequality, a shortage of housing, failing mental health services and drug addiction all contribute to growing scenes of squalor across America’s second-largest city. The federal government recently estimated that a nearly 3 percent rise in homelessness nationwide this year was driven mostly by California.
Yet it does not affect everyone equally. The historic displacement and fracturing of black communities in South Los Angeles have pushed black Angelenos like Mr. Wynn onto the streets at more than eight times the rate of other groups. In interviews with more than a dozen black men who are homeless in Los Angeles, the bitter inheritance of racism came up again and again.
Peter Lynn, the longtime head of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said discrimination played a major role in the origins of the crisis. “There is a staggering overrepresentation of black people in homelessness, and that is not based on poverty,” he said. “That is based on structural and institutional racism.”