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Housing and Homelessness

Orange County Will Count Its Unhoused Population For The First Time In 3 Years

A man in a tank top and red bandana in between two beds
Jerome Bestul, 62, originally from Wisconsin, found shelter at the Tarzana Tiny Home Village, which offers temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness.
(Robyn Beck
AFP via Getty Images)
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Orange County will conduct its first count since 2019 of people experiencing homelessness starting Monday night.

Doug Becht, director of the county's Office of Care Coordination, says tallying the count will take about two months to complete, and inital data will be available around May or June. A more comprehensive report with city and subpopulation breakdowns will be available shortly afterward.

"At the end of this process, we'll be able to not only state how many people are experiencing homelessness in Orange County," Becht said.
"But we'll be able to tell a lot about them — their age, race demographics, whether they've received services before, if their current episode of homelessness is their first episode of homelessness, or if they've been experiencing homelessness for quite some time.”

Service workers and volunteers will survey unhoused people through Thursday. The initial count on Monday night will focus on people staying in shelters, Becht said.

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Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be devoted to counts of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness, including people
living on the streets, in cars, or "anywhere else that's not meant for human habitation," Becht said.

The state and federal governments use the results to determine how to disperse funding to local jurisdictions.

The count was supposed to take place in January but it was postponed because of the omicron surge in Orange County.

The extra time has allowed Becht and his office to recruit more volunteers and ensure safety with fewer COVID cases in the region. Volunteers must be fully vaccinated or provide a negative CPR test within 48 hours of their volunteer shift. Masks are required.

The last count in 2019 showed just under 4,000 people experiencing homelessness. That resulted in the county bringing in around 1,000 shelter beds over three years, which increased shelter numbers.

"But we're hoping that will mitigate a potential rise in the unsheltered homeless count," Becht said.

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