Biennial count is used by government to fund services
By Arnold Adler
LOS ANGELES — “They count, will you?” is the theme of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority as it prepares for its biennial count of homeless people in the county. All county cities are participating in the count except Glendale, Long Beach and Pasadena, cities that conduct their own counts.
About 6,000 volunteers are being sought for the count, which will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Jan. 27, 28 and 29 in eight different service program areas in the county. Homeless Authority Public Information Officer George McQuade said the homeless count is important because the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development allocates funds based on the numbers in each area.
Those funds are used to help the homeless and to find permanent homes for them, McQuade said.
During the counts, trained volunteers will go out in teams of two to four to seek out the homeless and obtain information from them.
Homeless people can include those living in motels, vehicles or with friends as well as on the street or in encampments.
The information sheets will be taken to the homeless authority’s headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard downtown for analysis with information forwarded to HUD.
“There will be security agents. It’s very safe,” McQuade said.
Volunteers may sign up individually or as teams, he noted.
They must be 18 or older and can sign up online at www.theycountwillyou.org.
“By volunteering a few hours of your time, you can be part of creating sustainable change for our homeless
“The homeless count gives the opportunity of using a more relevant criteria for determining need, by population and by region, and allocating funding for housing and services accordingly.”
— Clementine Verjan, Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority
in Los Angeles County,” said Clementine (Tina) Verjan, assistant for planning and policy at the homeless authority.
“Counting homeless people is important because when we know who and where homeless people are in Los Angeles County, we are better able to plan and identify resources to provide vital services and ultimately move homeless families and individuals into housing,” she said.
Counters will receive training and materials on the day of the count from trained volunteers and will be outside counting for up to four hours, a spokesperson said.
Before and after the count, volunteers will be needed to assist in transporting material and tally sheets to and from deployment centers back to authority headquarters.
Office volunteers will be needed from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Sunday, the week of the count. Office work includes making phone calls to recruit volunteers and helping with data entry. Hours of volunteering range from one to three a day, a spokesperson said.
“The homeless count gives the opportunity of using a more relevant criteria for determining need, by population and by region, and allocating funding for housing and services accordingly,” Verjan said. “The economic instability over the past decade has demonstrated that socioeconomic conditions have the potential to shift drastically over a 24-month period. The homeless count informs strategic planning efforts and funding decisions.”
On Wednesday there will be counts in service program area 5, covering West Los Angeles, Culver City west to Malibu; and service program area 8 in the South Bay and Harbor area.
On Jan. 29, counts will begin at 8 p.m. in service program area 4 covering the Hollywood and West
Hollywood and service program area 6 in South Los Angeles.
The regional coordinator in service program area 5, Stephanie Inyama, is with Communities in Motion. She said the 2013 count in her area was about 39,000. She did not have a breakdown by city. “We already have 30 volunteers and expect another 20 or more,” said Deborah Wallace, a volunteer on the Culver City Homeless Advisory Board.
Wallace said the volunteers canvasing Culver City will work out of the Culver City Senior Center.
She expects volunteer teams to include representatives of St. Joseph Center, a homeless facility in neighboring Venice with which her committee works.
The estimated number of homeless people in Culver City is about 20, Wallace said.
A retired federal employee, Wallace said her five-member committee advises the City Council on homeless issues and is active all year with programs and fundraisers to aid the homeless, such as collecting donations of clothing and toiletries.
Those wishing to work out of the Culver City deployment center at the senior facility may email Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In December 1993, the county Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Mayor and City Council created the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority as an independent joint powers authority.
Its primary role is to coordinate the effective and efficient utilization of federal and local funding in providing services to homeless people throughout the county.
The authority is the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for homeless families and individuals in Los Angeles County.
It coordinates and manages over $70 million dollars annually in federal, state, county and city funds for programs that provide shelter, housing and services to homeless persons throughout the county.
Through the authority, funding, program design, outcomes assessment and technical assistance is provided to more than 100 nonprofit partner agencies that help homeless people achieve independence and stability in permanent housing.
The partner agencies provide programs ranging from outreach, access centers, emergency shelters, safe havens, transitional and permanent housing, and prevention, along with the necessary supportive services designed to provide the tools and skills required to attain a stable housing environment, the spokesperson said.
Specialized programs funded through the authority address a wide range of issues related to homelessness, including but not limited to: domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, job training, family strengthening, health, mainstream benefits, and most importantly, supportive short and long-term housing.
Additionally, the authority partners with both the city and county of Los Angeles to integrate services and housing opportunities to ensure wide distribution of service and housing options throughout the Los Angles Continuum of Care.
A 10-member commission governs the authority. Five members are selected by the county Board of Supervisors and five are chosen by the Los Angeles mayor and City Council. The commission is empowered with making budgetary, funding, planning and program policies and decisions.