Volunteers needed for homeless survey

Dan Watson/The Signal
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It will surely be cold at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, but Santa Clarita residents are being asked to bundle up and spend two to three hours outside at that time — to help those who have no choice but to spend all night long braced against the unfriendly elements of the outdoors.

Two hundred local volunteers are needed for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s annual “Point-In-Time Homeless Count,’’ a one-day snapshot of L.A.’s homeless population that is used by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, among others, to determine funds allocated to local homeless programs.

“(Last year) showed a lot of buy-in from the community,’’ said Jerrid McKenna, a city management analyst who took on an administrative support role in last January’s Santa Clarita-area count, and will do the same this year.

Last year, he said, about 100 local volunteers turned out when one location was used as a deployment spot at which the volunteer surveyors gathered.

This year, McKenna said, two gathering spots will be used — one on Valencia, one in Canyon Country. Hence the call for twice as many volunteers counters.

Previous surveys produced sobering statistics, and troubling trends.

In 2016, according to LAHSA (the homeless authority) data, there were an estimated 46,874 homeless people in Los Angeles County – up by 2,515, or 5.7 percent, from 2015’s count of 44,359.

In the LAHSA’s “Service Planning Area 2,” which includes the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys, the Point-In-Time surveys showed 7,094 homeless in 2016, up 36 percent from the 2015 tally of 5,216.

In Santa Clarita specifically, the LAHSA numbers were 316 in 2016, and 298 in 2015.

This county-wide count includes 85 cities and the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, excluding the Glendale, Long Beach and Pasadena.

This year’s Jan. 24 “street count” is the first of four steps used by LAHSA to gather data on the homeless. Subsequent steps include demographic surveys to determine individual data (such race, gender, age, military experience, issues that night indicate contributing causes of homelessness); a shelter count; and a youth count.

“They will (subsequently) … interview members of the population to find out what are their special issues, things of that nature,’’ McKenna said.

Locally, the data is used for funding for the Bridge to Home shelter and the Family Promise of the Santa Clarita Valley, he said.

“It’s important for Bridge to Home because it’s at the core of what we do, which is homeless services,’’ said Silvia Gutierrez, executive director of the shelter, which operates from November to March.

“We want to get the numbers in Santa Clarita because, in so many ways, it’s connected to funding that comes through the area — not just for us, but with other partnering agencies like the Domestic Violence  Center, the Child and Family Center.’’

Beyond HUD funding, she said, the data is used “across the board when we write to foundations — we use the data as evidence of the need, for different groups that want to know what the need is in Santa Clarita.’’

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to visit TheyCountWillYou.org to sign up and get details, or to call either LAHSA at (213) 683-3333 or Jennifer Del Toro, administrative analyst for the city of Santa Clarita, at (661) 286-4030.

The two locations from which volunteers will be deployed will be The Centre, at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway; and Real Life Church, at 23841 Newhall Ranch Road.

Volunteers – who must be at least 18 years old — will receive training and materials on the night of the count.

McKenna said volunteers will be put in pairs or groups and sent out to conduct visual tallies along local census tracts. Their data will be compiled and sent to USC for analysis and an ultimate estimation of the homeless population.

The new data is expected around mid-year, he said.

Some of the more hard-to-reach areas, such as the wash, will be surveyed by Sheriff’s Department deputies, McKenna said.

[email protected]

(661) 287-5525


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