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Housing and Homelessness

Los Angeles Postpones Count Of People Experiencing Homelessness

Four outreach workers walk down a street wearing all black and vests that identify them as part of Urban Alchemy, the nonprofit that does outreach with unhoused people. They are handing out food and water to unhoused people.
LAHSA said it wants to protect the health and safety of its volunteers, staff and people experiencing homelessness.
(Ethan Ward
/
LAist)
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The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) announced Friday it is postponing its 2022 point-in-time count of unsheltered and sheltered people this year until Feb. 22-24 due to concerns over the omicron variant surge in L.A. County.

The agency said it wants to protect the health and safety of its volunteers, staff and people experiencing homelessness. The 2021 unsheltered street count was canceled last year due to the pandemic, though there was a survey of people living in shelters.

“While we work to ensure an accurate Homeless Count, we cannot ignore the surging number of positive COVID-19 cases across our region,” said LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston in a statement. “Even with safety precautions such as moving training online, developing outdoor deployment sites, and keeping households together, moving forward with a count in January places our unhoused neighbors, volunteers, staff, and the accuracy of the Count at risk.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires counts to determine how much federal funding will be provided to communities. (You can read more about how LAHSA operates in our explainer here.)

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In the past, LAHSA has asked city and county representatives to suspend cleanups of encampments in order to get the most accurate number of people experiencing homelessness. That will be more important this year since the L.A. City Council approved revamped anti-camping laws last summer.

The count will happen over the course of three nights:

  • February 22: San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys 
  • February 23: West Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, and the South Bay
  • February 24: Antelope Valley, Metro Los Angeles, and South Los Angeles

How this count will be different

Because of the pandemic, LAHSA made adjustments for volunteers conducting the count that will include, in part, moving training sessions for volunteers online, using “safety bubbles” of no more than three people to work together, and requiring volunteers to wear masks.

“This decision is our best path to ensure the accuracy of the homeless count without putting the health and safety of persons experiencing homelessness, volunteers, and the community at risk,” Marston said.

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In 2020, there were roughly 66,000 unsheltered people living in tents, makeshift dwellings and their cars across the L.A. region.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the count in February, visit theycountwillyou.org to sign up.

What questions do you have about homelessness?
Ethan Ward for a time lived in his car while attending community college. That experience informs his reporting on one of the most pressing issues in Southern California.