(Los Angeles) The annual counting effort that tracks the homeless population in Los Angeles County has been postponed until February due to COVID-19 concerns. The count was canceled outright last year due to the pandemic.
In 2020, the last time the Count was conducted, 66,436 people were found to be living on the street across Los Angeles County, living in tents, makeshift dwellings, and vehicles.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) announced the postponement of the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Point-in-Time (PIT) Homeless Count Jan. 14. LAHSA said it made the choice to protect the “health and safety of its volunteers, staff, and people experiencing homelessness.” The postponement was made in light of the current infection surge in Los Angeles County brought on by the Omicron variant.
The homeless count will still be conducted over three nights, the schedule being determined by region:
- February 22, 2022: San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys
- February 23, 2022: West Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, and the South Bay
- February 24, 2022: Antelope Valley, Metro Los Angeles, and South Los Angeles
“While we work to ensure an accurate Homeless Count, we cannot ignore the surging number of positive COVID-19 cases across our region,” said LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston in a statement. “Even with safety precautions such as moving training online, developing outdoor deployment sites, and keeping households together, moving forward with a count in January places our unhoused neighbors, volunteers, staff, and the accuracy of the Count at risk.”
Since 2016, the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, overseen by LAHSA, has conducted the annual count with the goal of gaining a better understanding of homelessness across the County and to support applications for federal funding. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that all communities conduct a census of people experiencing homelessness every other year.
“The Homeless Count is an essential tool in giving us a point-in-time snapshot of homelessness. Data from the Count is used to inform the delivery of services and programs for people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles,” Marston said. “This decision is our best path to ensure the accuracy of the Homeless Count without putting the health and safety of persons experiencing homelessness, volunteers, and the community at risk.”
Previously, LAHSA made several changes to the 2022 Homeless Count in an effort to limit COVID-19 transmission. Authorities reportedly,
- Moved most deployment sites outdoors— at many sites, volunteers will not leave their cars to pick up their count packets
- Moved training sessions online to minimize the time volunteers spend at the deployment sites; COVID safety instructions are included in the training
- Encouraged all volunteers to sign up as a “safety bubble” of two to three people and arrive at the deployment sites together to minimize cross-group interactions
- Required all volunteers to use masks
- Encouraged all volunteers to be vaccinated
LAHSA is actively seeking volunteers to count in February. To find out more and register visit theycountwillyou.org