Volunteers hit the streets of Monrovia to count homeless during the first day of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count Tuesday. The count is designed and run by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to help understand and fight homelessness.
Due to the large geography of Los Angeles County, the count is split into three days. The Monrovia count is a part of the count for San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys during the first day. West Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles and South Bay were covered on Wednesday and Antelope Valley, Metro Los Angeles and South Los Angeles will be covered Thursday.
Splitting the count into regions also helps officials map differences based on areas and respond accordingly.
“Because L.A. County is such a huge geography, there is such a huge population experiencing homelessness. The count really helps get us a better understanding of the need,” LAHSA Policy Manager Erin Cox said. “Obviously, not everyone’s experience with homelessness is the same, not everybody needs the same thing to help them get out of homelessness, so I think the information from the count is used a lot in helping us.”
Intervention methods can change depending on the number of families, individuals or youth reported. Annual counts can also be used to track trends, which help determine the effectiveness of current programs or which programs should be given the most priority.
“If we’re seeing a huge rise in people experiencing homelessness for the first time – Well, what does that tell us about the rental market and the affordable housing crisis?” Cox said. “It helps us form a more powerful advocacy agenda for which resources are needed that maybe we don’t have currently.”
A total of 36 volunteers signed in at the Monrovia Community Center, where they were provided with training before being split up into teams and being assigned locations across the city. Members of the Monrovia Police Department were present to provide safety instructions and to support the effort. Groups of three and four volunteers went out and did a visual-only count of homeless people, as well as vehicles, tents, and makeshift shelters being used by homeless people.
“It really fills us with pride to see so many people come out and want to be a part of the count,” said Monrovia Director of Community Services Tina Cherry. “It’s just really impressive to see how many people care and want to do a good job, because we as an organization care deeply about doing this right.”
Jonathan King, a civil engineer at Los Angeles County Public Works, is involved with homeless initiatives and noticed an increase in homelessness in facilities. He volunteered as a concerned citizen.
“Through my normal work, I’ve been exposed to some pretty extreme and dire situations. I’ve seen some bad situations of homelessness out there,” King said. “Although I am aware there are people experiencing homeless in Monrovia, I haven’t seen too much of it, so I just wanted to get an opportunity to get out there and see with my own eyes. As a resident of Monrovia and as someone who works in the public sector, I felt it was a good opportunity to learn more about the issue.”
“As a society, we all play a part, and I think if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem,” King said.
Cherry encouraged citizens wanting to help combat homelessness to provide aid to existing organizations, such as Foothill Unity Center. “It’s so much more efficient and effective if you support those who are giving wraparound services as opposed to giving direct services to an individual,” Cherry said. “So often, if we give money or we give food we’re just treating a symptom we’re not really curing the bigger issue.”
In addition to the three-day street count, LAHSA also gets counts from shelters, hospitals, and special teams. A public release of county numbers will be available in May.