LA County conducts annual homeless count this week

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Skid Row homeless encampments. Photo by Amy Ta.

For three nights this week (Tuesday through Thursday) Los Angeles County will conduct its annual “point in time” count of people experiencing homelessness around the region. Here are the basics:

What is the homeless count?

An annual attempt to tally the number of people living in shelters and on the streets of Los Angeles County. This excludes Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach, which do their own counts.

Why does LA do this?

It’s required by the federal government of municipalities all over the country. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development uses the results to allocate resources. The city and county also use the results of the homeless count to guide where to put shelters, new affordable housing, and services for people experiencing homelessness.

How is the count done, and is it accurate?

For three nights, thousands of volunteers fan out across the county to conduct visual counts of tents, makeshift shelters and vehicles that people appear to be living in. 

Separately, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), which oversees the count, sends out workers to survey a sample of people experiencing homelessness. 

Data scientists use the survey results to come up with demographic statistics as well as an estimate of how many people live in each tent, encampment or car. They also add in people staying in shelters.

Clemetina Verjan, who oversees the count for LAHSA, says it is “as accurate as we can get.” She says that in recent years, the agency has implemented better training for volunteers and improved its process for counting homeless youth -- just two examples of how the counting methods are constantly updated. 

But the count is not a perfect science. It is a snapshot of how many people are living on the county’s streets during one week in January. The number of people who will experience some bout of homelessness during the year in Los Angeles County is likely much greater, according to county officials.

When will the results come out?

Late May or early June.

What do you want to know more about?

Credits

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel

Reporter:
Anna Scott