CNN Heroes 2021 Campaign
Los Angeles (CNN)
Before the Covid-19 health and economic crisis, the nation's homeless population was already on the rise.
Now, more than a year after the last official population count, many of those working with homeless communities believe numbers are much higher.
"I would estimate we've got about 8,000 people who are sleeping out on the streets or in some of the shelters," said Shirley Raines, whose non-profit serves the homeless community on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. By the last official count in early 2020, more than 4,500 individuals resided in the roughly 50-block area.
"There are more women on the street than before," Raines said, noting that a women's shelter had closed down amid the pandemic. "The resources had dried up."
Existing data does not reflect the devastating impact of the pandemic. But if Raines's estimate is accurate, that's a Skid Row surge of more than 40 percent since Covid-19 hit.
For the past six years, Raines and her organization, Beauty 2 the Streetz, have been a mainstay on Skid Row, providing food, clothing, hair and makeup services -- and most recently health and hygiene items -- to thousands of people.