(REASON) -- More than 2,500 homeless individuals sleep on the streets of the 53-square-block Skid Row area in downtown Los Angeles.
"Skid row is the worst manmade disaster in the United States. There's human waste on the sidewalks. There's all kinds of disease," says Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Skid Row's Union Rescue Mission, the nation's largest private homeless shelter. He lost his leg to staph infection he contracted while serving the homeless on Skid Row.
But California's homelessness crisis extends far beyond Skid Row and Los Angeles. The state's homeless population has jumped more than 12 percent in the last five years, and it's part of a national crisis.
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The city's particular predicament is notable for its sheer scale. Bales says that Los Angeles, which has the largest unsheltered homeless population in America, has failed to deal with what's become a public health and humanitarian crisis. More than 1,000 homeless people died on the streets of Los Angeles County last year, according to government figures.