Homeless Count in LA to Get Underway, But Organization Questions the Accuracy

Monday and through Thursday, the city of Los Angeles will attempt, once again, to count the number of people experiencing homelessness.

The census is supposed to help better understand where social services would fit best around the city.

But after more than a decade of counting its homeless, some are still concerned the city isn't doing it right.

It's the LA Housing Services Authority that's behind the annual census. Over three nights, thousands of volunteers scatter across LA County seeking out those who live on the street.

"Then that's going to help us to bring in resources from the federal government to help our homeless neighbors find accurate shelters," said LHSA's Clementina Verjan.

Volunteers will get a 14-minute training lesson before heading out, learning what to look for and most importantly, who to look for.

"It's very, very strategic as to what it's showing you that's going to help guide you. A lot of volunteers are also outreach workers," Verjan said.

But some groups say the city's attempt at counting is flawed.

"It's a real problem. It would cost a fortune obviously to really count the homeless but I think they need to stop saying they're doing a legitimate count of the homeless," said Coalition to Preserve LA's Jill Stewart.

The Coalition to Preserve LA is an organization that makes a point to push the city's buttons when it feels it's doing a disservice to its residents.

"They're acting like there's no emergency and they're going to pay politically if they don't get their act together, that's just the way it is," Stewart said.

Stewart points to the $1.2 billion from measure HHH, which passed in 2016 but has yet to be part of any plan to end homelessness.

"The city has not built one single unit of homeless housing and we've put out probably 20 press releases about that. It's a scandal, it's outrageous and they need to get their act together," Stewart said.

But LAHSA says that focus is all wrong.

"They're concentrating on the building of housing, but you can't build your way out of this situation. There has to be other ways of doing it," Verjan said.

The city touts unique ways of finding shelters, including working with landlords to come up with affordable units.

"There are a lot of things happening. It's just that a lot of people are not aware of that," Verjan said.

But the concern for others is the accuracy of the count. They admit it's important to have a number, but they're not too sure there's any way to prove it.

"If we don't know how many homeless there are, we can't claim we're doing a better job with the homeless," Stewart said.

The city has about 8,000 volunteers registered but they need another one thousand to help.

Check out this link to sign up as a volunteer.

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