How to Support LA’s Increasing Homeless Population on World Mental Health Day

Skid Row is an area of 54 blocks in downtown Los Angeles with thousands of homeless individuals
Skid Row is an area of 54 blocks in downtown Los Angeles with thousands of homeless individuals | © Military Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Katrina Nattress
10 October 2018

From volunteering to simply spreading awareness, there are so many ways to help support Los Angeles’ homeless communities and provide resources toward healthy living, especially on World Mental Health Day.

With the cost of living growing by the minute, LA harbors the second highest homeless population in the country after New York City. In 2017, the number of homeless people in LA was nearly 58,000 – a staggering 23 per cent more than the previous year. Though New York City claimed around 75,000, the Big Apple’s accommodations for homeless far surpass those of Los Angeles’ increasing population.

Thanks to the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS), only five per cent of its homeless population is unsheltered. In contrast, around 75 per cent of homeless people in LA live unsheltered and with limited resources, and a quarter of the homeless population suffers from mental health issues.

As the rent in Southern California continues to rise, so does the number of individuals and families who aren’t able to support their basic costs of living. But, locals and visitors alike are afforded a number of opportunities to help support sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations throughout Los Angeles. Here are six ways you can make a difference this year.

Homeless encampment along the roadside depicting the growing epidemic of homelessness in the City of Los Angeles, California, USA. | © Philip Pilosian / Shutterstock

Cast your vote

Though LA’s homelessness breaches epidemic status, 2018 shows signs of improvement with an estimated three per cent city-wide decrease. The past few years have seen a particular shift towards increased funding thanks to two passed proposals: Measure H and Prop HHH. Measure H, a pending action later this year, includes a sales tax increase to help support homeless services, while Prop HHH provides a bond to fund affordable housing. With those initiatives in full swing, the city is addressing the crisis head-on, and the power of the vote is particularly clear for Angelenos seeking to support homeless communities county-wide. By voting at a local level and keeping yourself well-informed on ballot measures, you can help ensure the city obtains the tools it needs to combat the homeless problem.

Join the “Everyone In” campaign

Everyone In is a campaign launched by United Way that lets Angelenos track the city’s progress in battling homelessness, reach out to elected officials and easily find ways to directly help solve the problem. The campaign has over 45,000 members and counting. By joining Everyone In, you can actively be a solution to helping end homelessness.

Volunteers sharing food with people in need. | © Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Use volunteer tools to find local opportunities

The most popular volunteer opportunities to benefit the homeless include serving meals at shelters and kitchens. While this is a tremendous help, other services can provide help on an impactful and local level. Homeless students need tutoring and homeless adults need training in writing resumes and interviewing for jobs. There’s so much you can do to help fellow Angelenos get back on their feet. VolunteerMatch is a wonderful tool to view all the ways you can help the homeless population in your community. Additionally, apps like Deed and GiveGab allow users to cater volunteer opportunities to their own passions and skill sets.

Build an Accessory Dwelling Unit to house someone on your property

LA County passed an initiative last year allowing homeowners to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on their residential or agriculturally zoned property. These granny flats will provide affordable housing for those who can’t afford the city’s skyrocketing rent prices. As part of a pilot program, the city is subsidizing up to $75,000 per unit to build two to three ADUs on your property, or $50,000 to preserve already existing, unpermitted ADUs. There is a long list of approved spaces and applications, which you can find here.

A homeless person photographed sleeping outdoors. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. | © tobkatrina / Shutterstock

Donate more than money

Monetary donations are always graciously accepted, and the Los Angeles Mission is the best way to contribute to the general county’s homeless population. But shelters are constantly in need of in-kind goods like clean socks and underwear, sleeping bags, and personal hygiene products, too. The Downtown Women’s Center makes it really easy for those who want to help, by keeping an updated Amazon Wish List. If you don’t have the means to donate financial aid or products, you can donate time at a local shelter.

Help spread awareness about local mental health resources

A quarter of the homeless population in LA suffer from mental health issues, and many of these people aren’t aware of the local resources the city has to offer. CLARE Foundation is a nonprofit that provides affordable substance abuse and behavioral health treatment and preventative services. The organization has been a community resource in Santa Monica for 50 years. Additionally, groups like Mental Health America of Los Angeles and National Alliance on Mental Illness advocate mental health rights and services, and promote awareness and understanding about mental illness. A simple mention of these resources to someone struggling could go a long way.

Wednesday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. To highlight this, Culture Trip is looking at how different societies are shining a light on this important issue in innovative and alternative ways.

The content of this article is provided for general information only and is not an attempt to practise medicine or give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. The information contained in this article is for the sole purpose of being informative and is not to be considered complete, and does not cover all issues related to mental health. Moreover, this information should not replace consultation with your doctor or other qualified mental health providers and/or specialists. If you believe you or another individual is suffering a mental health crisis or other medical emergency, please seek medical attention immediately.

If you are experiencing mental health issues, in the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email You can contact the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting Please note there are no affiliations of any kind between the aforementioned organisations and Culture Trip.

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