The numbers are staggering. The homeless population in the city of Los Angeles is almost 46,000. More staggering than the population is the money spent on the homeless crisis. Los Angeles city has budgeted $1.2 billion (2022-2023 LA city budget) for “homeless services” including housing. The county of Los Angeles has earmarked $610 million (2023-2044 LA County budget) for homelessness. That’s a lot of money, more than some cities with the same population spend to provide services for all their citizens. 

Take for example Freeport, New York. Freeport has a population of almost 44-thousand people (43,808 2020 US Census). The city provides police, fire and infrastructure on a budget of $154 million a year – that’s roughly 12% of LA’s homeless budget… to operate an entire city. Our research shows American cities with roughly the same population as LA’s homeless are providing services to their tax-paying residents for between $150 million to $200 million. Like Grapevine, Texas, Azusa, California, and Salina, Kansas. 

Grapevine, TX:
Population 42,987
Budget $193,000,000

Azusa, CA:
Population 51,092
Budget $199,000,000

Salina, KS:
Population 45,843
Budget $169,000,000

Again, entire cities operating with the same population as LA’s homeless on less than 20% of the budget. 

Some would argue that this is not a fair comparison, because those city budgets don’t include housing for each resident. But we can compare the housing prices across America to LA’s budget for housing the homeless. The last Homeless Audit Los Angeles conducted showed the cost for housing the homeless at $837,000 dollars a unit. That’s more than double the national average for the price of a home (Federal Reserve average sales price in 2020: $374,500) and LA’s homeless square footage is far below the typical sized home. The average size of a home in the US is 2,451 square feet. (American Home Shield) with the average price per square foot – for new construction–of between $100 and $200. (Quicken Loans) California has a higher cost of living and the price to build a home in the Golden State is $468 per square foot. (World Population Review) The city of LA is building tiny homes of 64 square feet. Take the $837,000 per unit and divide that by 64 square feet and each homeless tiny home built in LA costs $13,078 / square foot.

But LA didn’t build all the tiny homes, some were purchased, like these pre-fabricated sheds to be placed in tiny home villages. A search for an 8 x 8 foot shed, similar to the ones used by LA to house the homeless can be purchased for $1,319 dollars at Lowes. There’s even a 10% coupon if you order online. Los Angeles paid $5.2 million for 50 mini shelters. That’s $104,000 a unit! Or $1625 / square foot, four times the average for a California built home that’s 40 times bigger!