It’s time to have an honest conversation about homelessness. For starters, the Santa Clarita Valley is not immune from the housing crisis. Rents continue to climb on what seems like a monthly basis. Multigenerational homes are the norm, and the path to being a homeowner just isn’t as easy as it used to be 10-15 years ago — some of that’s for good reasons, but the reality is, as they say these days: The struggle is real. And accordingly, we hope our community approach and views on homelessness, and how to help those less fortunate, continue to evolve. We must move past the Not-In-My-Backyard, or NIMBYism, and make it a community concern. And we can’t be quite so arbitrary in who we help, or how we address the problem. As the concerns associated with homelessness continue to grow, we start to see it even in the more rural parts of Los Angeles County, such as Castaic, where the issue traditionally and largely has been “out of sight, out of mind.” More recently however, we began to notice residents posting about such concerns. In fact, “Castaic Community 411,” a Facebook group that discusses the good, the bad and, more generally, what’s happening in that corner of the Santa Clarita Valley, started a thread of concern regarding a younger, blonde transient who had taken up residence near a freeway off ramp. The group was initially concerned the young adult was a transient who might have been an out-of-state victim of human trafficking – another very real concern in this population, and a term that’s only really become more common in recent years as our societal views on the sex trade have evolved – and then it later became apparent that the woman, who frequently appears under the influence of controlled substances, was not the person reported missing. Maybe she suffered the same apparent fate as the elderly homeless man who usually sits in front of a nearby donut shop not far from that same Castaic off ramp – out of work, short on luck, long on hardship – but he sits there, daily, without a Facebook group to track his movements, regular visitors who offer help or much else, save for his tall beer can that’s wrapped in a paper bag. But whether that’s his choice, her choice or the only station they’re at in life because they’re a victim of a circumstance we can’t know or don’t understand, don’t they all deserve the same compassion? They all, as fellow humans, deserve the same access to services we’d want our family members to have in an unfortunate accident. And that’s why next week is such a hugely critical event, not just for the city of Santa Clarita, but for L.A. County, and for human nature. The homeless count taking place Tuesday is perhaps the most important thing you can partake in to help the homeless. For years, the numbers have been low, for a number of reasons: the population is hard to track, some of these folks have put themselves in dangerous or bad situations due to choices they’ve made and others seek to avoid the stigma that can come with being perceived as weak or needy in our nation. But they count, and must be counted. We must have accurate numbers, so we can adequately address a problem so it can be treated. Whether you think those folks have chosen to be there, and they can go help themselves, or you’d like to see them have more access and services – which is still basically the spectrum for the discussion – we need to know how many of those are less fortunate, and what it would take to help those in need. We implore residents to become involved, if not by volunteering, or sharing what can be spared, then clear an evening. Stop by The Center on Tuesday, and help the homeless stand and be counted. Ignoring their problems, our problems and the community’s concerns will not make them go away – of this much we can be certain. For those interested in taking part in the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s Santa Clarita Valley homeless count, visit TheyCountWillYou.org. For details, call Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority at (213) 683-3333 or Jennifer Del Toro, management analyst for the city, at (661) 286-4030. A brief training for the homeless count takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23 with the actual count starting at 8 p.m.