The homeless in Los Angeles

The homeless in Los Angeles

Mobile phones give researchers a deeper look into living homeless in L.A. It’s not easy. You hear what people are doing before they tell you. They go on the move, or they’re quiet. They don’t want to talk. They might talk. Most have never been in a place where there was no cell service. The phones get an e-mail, an instant message, photos, videos. They make phone calls and check in at the shelters. Most are very cautious. They don’t want strangers poking around their lives. They’ve already been kicked out of several homes.

But this experiment is different. It’s the latest in a series of research-based reports on living on the streets that have been published over the past couple of years. The first reports looked at women who were sex workers, and then the second reported on people in the car-pooling business, to show just how people find ways to earn a living while others are stuck on the streets.

This one takes a look at homeless men and women. The data is from about 150 interviews — at night, in L.A.’s streets, in shelters, in cars, on the sidewalks — with residents of the downtown homeless encampments called the Gateway and the San Pedro MSTP. A small number of the homeless interviews were done by phone.

The two cities are part of a two-county area in L.A. called Los Angeles that’s home to 10 million people, a number that has roughly doubled over the past 20 years. According to census figures, there were 14,000 homeless there in 2007. The number has grown exponentially. In 2002, there were only 600. By 2005, the number was 1,400, then in 2007 626. In 2008, L.A. had the second-highest homeless rate in the United States behind New Orleans, where one in 10 people live on the streets. The number has grown about 30 percent since the last census

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