Lester Medina said he is tired of seeing the homeless population rising.
It’s why he volunteered to take part in the 2024 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, with the Santa Clarita portion of the count taking place on Tuesday.
“I have a lot of friends that have been experiencing homelessness,” Medina said, “so I just want the city and the local authorities to have a better understanding of what’s going on.”
The count, held by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in coordination with the city of Santa Clarita and Bridge to Home, a local organization working to end homelessness in Santa Clarita, brought more than 50 people to The Centre on Tuesday evening. Their mission: to get a point-in-time count of the number of homeless people living in Santa Clarita.
Volunteers met at The Centre and were handed flashlights and vests to identify them as homeless count volunteers before being put into groups. Those groups would then drive around areas of the city, using a mobile app to approximate where homeless people were at the time.
Deanna King, a Santa Clarita resident, participated in the count for the first time. Her group of three people, all first-timers, drove around Canyon Country on Sierra Highway near Jake’s Way. She said they only identified one person as being homeless in that area on the app.
“Everything was relatively uneventful,” King said in a phone interview with The Signal on Wednesday.
Medina had a similar experience going through a separate area of Canyon Country, between Bouquet Canyon Road and Sierra Highway. His group found a group of three people who were homeless near the Big Lots on Soledad Canyon Road.
While not finding quite as many people as he would have thought given the reported rise in homelessness in the past few years, Medina was still happy to have done his part to help combat an issue in the city he calls home.
“I got a good feeling because, to me, we need to get the resources that we need,” Medina said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Counting the homeless is only going to help the city to get the resources that they need in order to help.”
Medina’s point of the count being an important tool to gathering resources is one that Tyson Pursley, clinical supervisor at Bridge to Home, also hit on. Pursley was one of many Bridge to Home workers in charge of getting volunteers out in the city.
“I do understand it is important to have a metric of some kind, and this is the only metric,” Pursley said. “You’ve got to count them. It’s important. Everybody counts.”
For Pursley, having local organizations like Bridge to Home connecting with the city and LAHSA to have the count done is vital.
“I think it’s more than just helpful — it’s necessary in order for it to get done,” Pursley said. “Everybody’s got to pitch it and do our part.”
Tracey Sulivan, community preservation manager for the city, told The Signal in a phone interview on Wednesday that all areas of the city were covered, a testament to the Santa Clarita community.
“The feedback that I have heard is that it went well and all of the census tracts were covered, which is great,” Sullivan said. “That goes to show the volunteer force of our community.”
The point-in-time numbers for 2023 were not published by LAHSA until July, though Santa Clarita’s numbers were withheld for the first time due to inaccuracies and unreliability in the data, according to previous reporting in The Signal.
According to Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city, the point-in-time count in 2023 yielded 287 people being counted as homeless at the time.
Countywide, homelessness increased by 9% in 2023 and by 70% since LAHSA’s count in 2015. Santa Clarita’s homeless population increased by over 30% from 2018 to 2022.