Santa Clarita participates in 2023 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
Residents, some in groups and others alone, trickled into the Santa Clarita Recreation Center to volunteer for the 2023 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count in the late evening Tuesday — all prepared to face the strong winds and cold night to collect data used to address homelessness on various fronts.
“The data is counted every year, so that we can make sure that we have the funding in the areas that we need,” said Imari Peterson, director of programs for Bridge to Home. “There are agencies throughout the whole county that get funding to provide the service to our homeless neighbors that we can.”
“This data really helps us show there is a problem here, and there’s funding that needs to be funneled there,” she added.
Bridge to Home, the city of Santa Clarita and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority partnered up to organize the local count. According to Peterson, about 77 people registered to volunteer, but that might look closer to 50 to 60 people, depending on whether their availability changed.
“It’s always better to have more volunteers,” Peterson said. “As you can see, this is a large map of our valley, and this service planning area 2, which goes out to the [San Fernando] valley. We really focus on the Santa Clarita area, but it is a very big valley. The more volunteers that we can get to cover all of those areas, the better.”
Volunteers lined up and registered with for the count. Bridge to Home members gave volunteers a vest, maps, paperwork and snacks in preparation for the count, which would end at midnight.
According to Peterson, most volunteers would get in their vehicles and drive around locating any homeless individuals. There’s an app that is used to count the number of homeless individuals, the type of housing they might be in such as a tent, vehicle, or other, and age group, too.
“There is a paper backup because we know that electronics can fail us,” Peterson said. “We make sure that we have both to be able to compare at the end, and make sure that the data that we’re getting is as most accurate as we can get.”
Peterson described the count as “more fun” than people would think it is. It usually entails a group of people in your community volunteering for the count, and so there is an opportunity to connect with them.
“It’s a time for us to gather as a community and really help out those who need the funding and the services in the area,” Peterson said.
According to Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city of Santa Clarita, the city supported this year’s count by promoting it within the community and helped recruit volunteers. In addition, the city worked with Bridge to Home and LAHSA to provide support for some of the logistical components.
“The data from the count helps inform the city as we continue to work with local nonprofits and governmental partners to help address homelessness in Santa Clarita,” Lujan wrote in an email. “The annual homeless count is important because the data will help guide the city’s strategies and funding for addressing homelessness in our community.”
Oscar Hernandez, who works for Bridge to Home, said it’s important to get measurable data to understand the homeless problem, its complexity and its totality. There’s always a need for it, he added.
Kathy Greenberg and her husband, Leonard, who live in Valencia, volunteered for the 2023 homeless count because they wanted to help homeless individuals in their community. This was their first time doing so, Greenberg said.
“I don’t personally witness it a lot, but I’ve heard that it is here. For people that are having a difficult time, I certainly don’t want them on the street,” Greenberg said. “If there’s something we can do to help them get in some programs, different things like that, or the funding that will help, then that’s great.”