The Los Angeles homeless census is underway in the shelters and streets of L.A. County this week. Beginning Tuesday, 6,000 volunteers will head out over three nights to get a sense of how the county's' homeless population has changed in the past two years.
The effort will lead to a better understanding of who L.A.'s homeless are and where they're living. That information then plays a role in determining how millions in funding is allocated across the county.
Clementina Verjan is interim director of policy and planning at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), and has been leading the L.A. count since it began ten years ago. She says the count is used to focus aid on the communities that need it most.
"LAHSA and a lot of its funders use the service planning areas to allocate resources," she says. "And they use the homeless estimate to kind of prioritize communities, because there's limited resources out there for our population."
Verjan says people tend to think of the chronically homeless and substance abusers when they think of who makes up the bulk of the county's homeless population. "There has always been this myth about what our homeless population looks like." she says.
"Now, it's more about people who are living in vehicles," she says. "It's a lot more younger; it's families who basically, for economic reasons, ended up losing their homes."
Recent counts have also shown growth in homeless in areas of South L.A., and uncovered much younger homeless communities in Venice and Long Beach.
On Tuesday night, volunteers and service providers will meet at deployment centers in the San Gabriel Valley and areas around East L.A. They'll receive training, a clipboard, flashlight and volunteer T-shirt. They'll be paired up into teams of at least two, and fan out along designated census tract areas.
The whole thing takes about 4 hours.
On Wednesday, teams will head west and south — to west L.A. and the South Bay.
Thursday, they'll begin in Antelope Valley early in the morning, then cover downtown L.A. and South Los Angeles in the evening.
"We were strategic about how we put these service providing areas together," Verjan says. "It's based on the route of our homeless populations to try to avoid duplication."
You can still sign up for the 3-day count on LAHSA's website.