Counting on Volunteers

More than 7,700 took part in county’s yearly census of local homeless population

 

Last week, YPI staff took part in Los Angeles Housing Service Authority’s annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. They committed to help coordinate efforts at the deployment site located at Hollywood City Hall, just down the street from YPI’s headquarters. Over the course of three nights, more than 7,700 volunteers across L.A. County joined in to document the rising number of individuals experiencing homelessness. This includes those living in transitional housing or shelters, and the “unsheltered” homeless—transients living on sidewalks and in encampments, cars, and campers.

The county’s street count, which enlists volunteers to sweep city blocks street by street, collects over 5,000 surveys. Surveys provide demographic data that is used to update and inform elected officials on the current homeless population, which stood at 47,000 people last year. The collected census data is also used to assess the effectiveness of supportive services in curbing the plight of the homeless within the past year. In an attempt to increase stakeholder and resident engagement, data is used to bring awareness to the high concentration of homeless settlers within Los Angeles neighborhoods.

 

Staff from YPI’s nascent Early Head Start program snaps a selfie before splitting off in pairs for the yearly Homeless Count on Wednesday, January 25, 2017.

 

Emboldened by YPI’s own mission to transform L.A. neighborhoods and to reduce poverty, YPI staff did not hesitate to go into the neighborhoods surrounding the service area, to make sure that even those without a permanent home were counted. It is YPI’s belief that the homeless are a part of our community and need to be represented. Because the homeless count provides an opportunity to sway local policy and direct much-needed services and resources to this often vulnerable segment of the population, YPI staff were eager to be a part of the count. This sort of engagement in the community is just one step in a more holistic approach that seeks to eradicate poverty from every block of L.A.’s Promise Zone, Promise Neighborhood, and beyond.

Encompassing a large focus area that includes the Central Hollywood, Hollywood Hills West, Hollywood Studio District, and Hollywood United neighborhood councils, the Hollywood City Hall deployment site alone united more than 80 volunteers from different backgrounds on a single night. City and county employees, businessmen and women, nonprofits, and faith-based groups teamed up with local students and residents, and, by car and on foot, combed the census tracts to capture data between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., a timeframe when the transient population begin to settle away from the fluid movement of Hollywood’s neighborhood and nightlife.

Last year’s count estimated more than 1,750 individuals experiencing homelessness throughout Hollywood. Though a coalition of public and private service providers from the city to the feds have addressed the then growing issue of a swelling population, today’s number of homeless individuals is still noticeably on the rise despite funneling investments amounting up to $175 million in 2016. This is due in part to the gutting of funding for shelters, some of which have had to close their doors. These shelters served as a refuge and provided Hollywood’s homeless a temporary home. And while official results of this year’s count won’t be announced until the spring, the hope is that the numbers mandate investments in the area to alleviate the hardship of our neighbors left wandering the streets without a home.

 

 

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