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This Year's Countywide Homeless Count Will Help Connect People To Services

Volunteers at the 2015 homeless count (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Thousands of volunteers will count L.A.'s homeless population this week and for the first time, will try to directly connect individuals to homeless services.

Roughly 7,500 volunteers signed up for the 2016 homeless count, which kicked off yesterday, in an effort to survey the number of people in the county living on the streets, in cars and in encampments, reports the L.A. Times. And for the first time, volunteers will not only tally the numbers of homeless people, but will attempt to learn about the circumstances that led to their situation and link them up to services on the spot, according to the L.A. Daily News.

"We are also capturing more than 4,500 demographic surveys to identify characteristics and trends among the many segments of our homeless population who require special strategies to meet their needs—such as veterans, youth aging out of the foster care system or people with physical or mental disabilities," Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority spokeswoman Naomi Goldman told the Daily News.

This is also the first time the count, organized by LAHSA, will take place in consecutive years. Additional funding and a dramatic increase in the county's homeless population last year led to this year's follow-up. Last year the number was estimated at 44,000 homeless people, a 12% increase over the previous count. Volunteers will be paying particular attention to homeless vets this time around:

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"We will (be) creating a special detailed profile of homeless veterans as part of this work, thanks to additional funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs," Goldman explained.

This year's count is also considered the largest homeless count in the nation with the nearly 7,500 volunteers fanning out over 95% of the census tracts in the county. Last year 6,000 people covered roughly 89% of the county's tracts. While in the past volunteers have used clipboards to make the count, this year they will use iPads to help speed things up and try to connect people with immediate services.

The homeless count began Tuesday in the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles, and will continue tonight across the San Fernando Valley, West Los Angeles and the South Bay. Thursday morning, volunteers will spread out across Malibu, Pacific Palisades and the Antelope Valley, and will conclude with downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and South L.A. that night.

Related: City Votes To Offer Shelter For Homeless In Public Buildings And Parking Lots
Los Angeles Spends $100 Million A Year On The Homeless
Ending Homelessness In L.A. Will Cost At Least Nearly $2 Billion, City Report Says

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