The monumental task of counting the number of homeless in Los Angeles County has been completed, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) announced on Monday, Feb. 13.
About 6,066 volunteers, plus employees from several cities and LAHSA staffers fanned out over the county from Jan. 24 through Jan. 26 and some in the weeks after. They counting the unhoused on the streets, outside vacant buildings, in cars, RVs and tent encampments to get a handle on the number of unhoused and their locations.
The data from the unsheltered point-in-time count, as well as the separate youth count from Jan. 22 through Jan. 31 are combined with three months of surveys from a team of demographers at USC to formulate a picture of the county’s homeless population.
The final numbers and maps will be released by LAHSA in late spring or early summer.
The cities of Glendale, Long Beach and Pasadena, which perform their own counts, have finished and soon will release the results in their cities.
Pasadena, with 174 volunteers — more than last year, covered 23 square miles on Jan. 25. “We surveyed every street, alley, nook and cranny in the city,” said Dan Davidson, homeless count coordinator. The city should deliver numbers to the public in May, said Lisa Derderian, city spokesperson.
About 300 volunteers completed the point-in-time count in Long Beach, covering the city of 51 square miles on Jan. 26. The results are expected to be released in April, wrote Chelsey Magallon, city spokesperson, in an emailed response.
LAHSA, and those three independent cities, perform the guesstimates in order to receive annual Continuum of Care Program Competition funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county and cities within the county use the data to apply for state and federal dollars for shelters, permanent housing, mental health interdiction and substance abuse treatment. A map of unhoused hot spots may help government and nonprofit partners target services.
“To provide the best picture possible, we needed thousands of volunteers willing to count their unsheltered neighbors,” said Stephen David Simon, interim executive director of LAHSA in a prepared statement.
“Thanks to their partnership and a well-executed quality assurance process, the homeless count results will paint a transparent picture of people experiencing homelessness in our region at a single point in time,” said Simon.
Out of 3,193 U.S. Census tracts in the county, volunteer teams completed counting in 2,967 of the tracts during those three nights, or about 93% of the tracts. That left 229 census tracts uncounted, missing or containing incomplete data. These census tracts were surveyed as make-up counts by LAHSA outreach teams in the weeks that followed, to assure that all census tracts were counted, LAHSA reported.
Of the tracts in which special teams counted, 17 were located near creeks and rivers, areas deemed dangerous by LAHSA and therefore counted by staffers and law enforcement.
The 229 tracts identified as uncounted after the initial three-day count compares to 480 such make-up census tracts counted in 2022, the agency reported.
Having fewer make-up tracts this year, compared to last year, was a sign that the agency had laid in better training of volunteers, multiple backup practices, a more user-friendly app, and a digital dashboard that captured live data that LAHSA deployment staffers used to spot holes in real time.
The digital counting enhancements were an attempt by LAHSA to avoid missing entire census tracts. In the 2022 count, the neighborhoods in Venice — an area known for its homeless encampments — were reported by LAHSA to have zero unhoused individuals, an embarrassing error.
“LAHSA took lessons learned from the 2022 Homeless Count and best practices from previous years to improve deployment sites, training, and new digital tools,” the agency reported on Monday.
One key addition was a new app created by Esri, the mapping and data company in Redlands, which has developed programs used in at least 50 homeless counts nationwide. The app was powered by GIS mapping technology to track exactly where volunteers walked, even if they lost cellular data.
During the second night of the LAHSA count the real-time data synchronization between LAHSA headquarters, and the site coordinators’ digital dashboard, and the volunteers’ app, suffered a data blackout between 9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., which is prime counting time.
The disruption created a lag in how long it took information to reach the database, but volunteers continued to collect data on their smart phones since the mobile app was designed to work offline. Eventually, all the data was inputted into the system, LAHSA reported.
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