Homeless task force discusses 2020 point-in-time count

Los Angeles Homeless Services Associate Director of Homeless Services Victor Hinderliter, left, and Jennifer Del Toro of the City of Santa Clarita look at a map of Santa Clarita as they prepare for the 2017 Point-In-Time Homeless Count at The Center at the City of Santa Clarita's Activities Center in Santa Clarita on Tuesday evening. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita task force on homelessness took its first steps Wednesday toward generating an action plan that could improve how the city tallies its homeless population, ahead of the 2020 point-in-time count. 

The committee, made up of about 30 community leaders, took recommendations made in May by UCLA graduate students on how to improve the local count and what can be implemented immediately by Jan. 21, the scheduled point-in-time count for the region. 

“By the conversation today, we’ve come up with some ideas in order to be able to more accurately come to a conclusion about the homeless in our city, which is extremely important to get the funding and resources that we need,” said Mayor Marsha McLean, a committee member.  

Every year, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority organizes in 85 cities and unincorporated areas of the L.A. County a point-in-time count, which is an unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered individuals facing homelessness conducted from Jan. 22-24. Results from the homeless count are used to determine the amount of funds each city’s local programs are eligible for in order to receive to combat homelessness.

Santa Clarita has found that the counts from previous years are far below the actual numbers, including that of 2018, which tallied 256 local homeless individuals. School officials have stated that the figure falls short of what a single district can count. 

To reach a better count, the committee discussed implementing improved volunteer training and establishing teams with a minimum of three people to fill the necessary role of a navigator, driver and recorder. Experienced team leaders, which could be volunteers or a local organization representative, will also fall into the mix this year. 

Under LAHSA’s guidelines, those who tally persons experiencing homelessness on the single night are not allowed to exit their vehicle but Santa Clarita may look at partially walking in areas that cannot be adequately seen from a car to ensure that individuals in more obscure places are enumerated. 

Special teams to conduct a count of riverbeds and wilderness areas where people may be residing, as well as conducting the count during daylight hours, such as from 5-10 a.m., to address visibility challenges, are methods the task force agreed it could implement in the future, according to Jerrid McKenna, assistant to the city manager. 

The task force is expected to reconvene once more in before the point-in-time count to tighten up their modified action plan.  

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