LAHSA lowers Santa Clarita homeless count

Volunteers fill out forms at The Centre in Santa Clarita as they prepare to participate in the annual homeless count on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Despite what local community leaders believe to be an already low number, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority updated its Santa Clarita homeless population count to an even lower tally.

The first-released point-in-time count of 256 is now 234, according to data released on LAHSA’s website, which showcases information via a new interactive map. LAHSA officials said Friday the change is due to an incomplete preliminary data set related to census tracts.

“The community-level data released (mid-June) moved up this year to an earlier date to help cities with planning,” said Marie Condron, a consultant to LAHSA’s communications.

The initial figures were released “in response to city requests to eliminate confusion stemming from certain census tracts that crossed city boundaries,” which could have resulted in a higher tally as published on LAHSA’s new geographic map, according to Josh Kamensky, also a consultant to LAHSA.

“There are a number of layers in the map that end up constituting the total number,” he added. “This is an incomplete initial data set that will be updated. LAHSA will release a comprehensive final set of numbers in the coming weeks.”

A data team is evaluating current numbers for a more accurate count, officials said, as subpopulations are added, which Condron defined as transition-age youth between the ages of 18 and 24, unaccompanied children and people within a domestic violence service system.

As of Tuesday, data showed that the majority of those experiencing homelessness in Santa Clarita were counted as “unsheltered persons,” with 40 counted as living on the street, 35 in cars and 48 in RVs or campers. Under “sheltered persons,” the PIT marked 59 individuals in emergency shelters and eight in transitional housing.

The latest count of 234 represented a 49% increase from the 2018 tally, and is below the 2016 total of 278.
Santa Clarita’s community task force on homelessness, which met June 19 for its monthly meeting, discussed the preliminary numbers and efforts for a more accurate count.

“I think we all know, even with the uptick in numbers, it’s still not an accurate count for Santa Clarita,” said Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth, chair of the city’s task force. “It’s still lower than our actual numbers, but I think the focus is to input UCLA modifications in the 2020 count.”

Besides considering recommendations from UCLA students for a count they believe better reflects the homeless population in Santa Clarita, members of the task force are looking to work with Our Children LA for its WIN app, a mobile app for those struggling with homelessness, by adding services available across the Santa Clarita Valley.

The city is also in the final stages of adding its official homeless coordinator to focus on the issue more closely, thanks to $375,000 in Measure H funding that Santa Clarita received earlier this year.

A series of ice cream socials hosted at local city libraries are also on the drawing board, Mayor Marsha McLean, who is part of the task force, announced Tuesday. The public events will be an opportunity for the community to learn about homeless services available. Details are scheduled to be released soon, she said.

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