The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a homeless count specifically for homeless county youth, ages 16 to 24, in an effort to more accurately identify and provide services to that demographic.
The motion authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis, 1st District, proclaims the Great Los Angeles Youth Homeless Count, or L.A. Youth Count, from Jan. 21 through Jan. 31. The motion directs the chief executive officer in partnership with the interim executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to encourage county employees to volunteer for the count.
“An estimated 2,822 young people in Los Angeles County on any given night experience homelessness according to the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Youth Count,” read the motion. “This number, which includes both young adults ages 18 to 24 and unaccompanied children under 18, is a 40% decrease from 2020.”
“Among these young people, 15% report current or previous involvement in the child welfare system and 68% report previous or current involvement in the juvenile or criminal systems,” the motion stated.
According to officials from LAHSA, the youth count is a little different from the “point-in-time” Greater Los Angeles Count, which is done annually. LAHSA officials described it as a “deeper approach” to get a specific grasp on the number of homeless young people.
Prior to the 10 days, there’s a lot of preparation involving several partners including LAHSA, existing partners that already work with transitional age youth who are homeless, USC and volunteers. Together, these groups share information on key areas of the county where homeless youth are most likely to be.
The groups then conduct a boots-on-the-ground approach for the youth count. According to county officials, the Omicron variant spike in the winter of 2022 led to fewer transition-aged youth surveys collected, which may have accounted for the decrease in youth homelessness from 2020 to 2022.
“While trying to survive on the streets, youth are exposed to countless dangers, with an increased likelihood of substance abuse, depression, posttraumatic stress disorders and a vulnerability to being trafficked,” read Solis’ motion.
“Furthermore, being unhoused at a young age increased the risk of prolonged and chronic homelessness. These risks and the overwhelming harm to young people compel Los Angeles County to continue establishing housing for youth, as well as supportive connections to caring adults and access to services,” the motion continued.
Helen Chavez, assistant chief deputy and communications director for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, 5th District, said the data collected from the L.A. Youth Count is important.
“They use the data to be able to advocate for additional funding, whether that’s funding from the federal government or funding from (other) sources or any other nonprofit or charity,” Chavez said. “It’s used to be able to draw down additional funding because to get funding you have to justify need.”
In addition, county officials will be able to complete a trend analysis and be able to provide resources to specific areas that are identified as “higher need” of services for transitional age youth.
The L.A. Youth Count will be conducted Jan. 21 through Jan. 31. The annual 2023 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count will be on Jan. 24, and the city of Santa Clarita will partner with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and local nonprofit Bridge to Home to conduct it in the Santa Clarita Valley.
For more information on the count or how to register as a volunteer, visit www.theycountwillyou.org or SantaClaritaVolunteers.com. Residents can also contact Chris Najarro, Bridge to Home’s executive director, at [email protected].