Organizers are preparing for the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which will be held from Tuesday, Jan. 24 through Thursday, Jan. 26. Volunteers are needed at locations throughout the county, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) is urging people to visit theycountwillyou.org to sign up.
The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count was previously held every two years, but was changed to an annual event last year because of an increase in homelessness. LAHSA conducts the count in partnership with organizations throughout the county. Government funding is calculated based on numbers from the count. It also helps agencies identify trends such as areas that are experiencing higher levels of homelessness.
“We are organizing our 2017 homeless count and it is expected to be the largest homeless census in the nation,” said Naomi Goldman, a spokeswoman for LAHSA. “It provides up to date, timely data. [We learn] what’s working, what to build on and what the trends are. It’s also an effective tool to make sure we are allocating adequate resources.”
LAHSA will hold the count countywide, except in Long Beach, Glendale and Pasadena, which conduct their own counts. Last year, there were approximately 47,000 homeless people tabulated. Although the number of homeless people increased in 2016, Goldman said some trends emerging from last year’s count were encouraging.
“While the numbers overall were up a bit, we saw significant decreases among homeless veterans and families,” Goldman said. “We think that information is encouraging. All of the information helps us and our partners throughout Los Angeles make sure were are diverting resources where they are needed.”
Last year, approximately 7,5000 volunteers participated in the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Volunteers are assigned specific zip codes and are generally sent out in pairs or groups to drive around their areas and count people they see living on the streets or in vehicles. Participants are not required to make contact with homeless individuals.
In the local area, the Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition is organizing a homeless count from Western Avenue to Doheny Drive/La Cienega Boulevard, and from Melrose Avenue to the Santa Monica (10) Freeway. Their count is on Jan. 26. Participants can choose which area they want to count. Volunteers will meet for an orientation at 7:15 p.m. at either 600 S. La Brea Ave. for the count in the Miracle Mile and southern portion of the coverage area, or at 543 N. Fairfax Ave. for a count in the northern area. The counting will occur from approximately 8:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight, said Scott Sale, a member of the Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition, which has conducted the count in the local area for the past three years.
“Every year, we get 75 to 100 people. The more the better,” said Sale, who added that the coalition also performs regular outreach for homeless individuals to link them with services. “We want people to continue to participate in coalition activities. We go out four times a month. We are dealing with people who experience homelessness and engage them on a one-on-one basis to get services.”
People from other neighborhoods are also encouraged to visit theycountwillyou.org to find locations to volunteer. Counts in the Los Angeles area will primarily be held on Jan. 25 and 26.
Scott Epstein, chair of the Mid City West Community Council (MCWCC), said members of the council will be counting with the Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition.
“It’s a wonderful way to get engaged on this issue,” Epstein said. “It’s one night of service, but people find they want to get more involved. I expect that will happen again.”
Goldman encouraged as many as possible to participate, but declined to estimate whether the number will be higher or lower than last year.
“We are not going to make any predictions,” Goldman added. “We want the data to tell the story for us.”
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