Between 2020 and 2022, the number of Latinx individuals experiencing sheltered or unsheltered homelessness rose nearly 8 percent nationally (HUD 2022). COVID-19 was likely a contributing factor. Latinx households disproportionately experienced
negative economic and health impacts and challenges accessing emergency resources during the pandemic (Chinchilla, Moses, and Visotzky 2023). Many households were already living on the edge of homelessness and had adapted to Los Angeles’ housing affordability crisis by doubling up in overcrowded, substandard housing. Scholars who have examined “doubled-up homelessness”—the practice of sharing housing because of economic hardship or housing loss—at the national level found that in 2019, Latinxs were nearly three times as likely as non-Latinxs to be doubled-up (Richard et al. 2022).
While scholars have estimated doubled-up homelessness at the national level, few have conducted analyses at the local level. Moreover, homelessness among Latinxs, including the factors that facilitate or impede their access to housing and homeless services, continues to be largely understudied. To address these gaps, we examined doubled-up homelessness in Los Angeles County—home to the largest number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness nationally and one of the regions with the largest share of Latinx residents—with a focus on estimating the scale and characteristics of those living in doubled-up households. Additionally, we used interviews with homeless service providers and policy advocates to understand how doubled-up homelessness may impact service access for Latinx households.
Our quantitative analysis shows that the number of individuals experiencing doubled-up homelessness between 2016 and 2020 in Los Angeles County was, on average, 3.5 times the number of those who experienced sheltered and unsheltered homelessness in 2020. Race and ethnicity were both significantly associated with doubling up, with Latinxs accounting for nearly 77 percent of all doubled-up individuals. When doubled-up individuals in renter households were compared to all individuals in renter households, the rate of doubling up was 6.2 percent for Latinxs. White non-Latinx individuals had
the lowest rate of doubling up, at approximately 1.3 percent. When race as well as ethnicity was considered, Latinxs who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native had the highest rate of doubled-up homelessness, at 7.5 percent. In addition, age, unemployment, years in the United States, English language ability, and citizenship were all significantly associated with doubling up.
Our semi-structured interviews with community service providers and policy advocates revealed important challenges that were encountered by Latinxs who seek homeless services. These included how homelessness is defined for service provision, cultural stigma, language access, and citizenship status. Based on our quantitative analysis and interviews, we propose a set of recommendations for policymakers and system administrators to consider. These recommendations are strongly aligned with those emerging from the Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness (LAHSA 2018a), and efforts to address the needs of American Indian and Alaskan Native people experiencing homelessness (Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission 2023), and of immigrant and undocumented people experiencing homelessness (Department of Consumer and Business Affairs et al. 2021).