For the first time in its history, the Santa Monica Homeless Count had to close registration early because of a flood of volunteers who wanted to help with the annual count that takes place on Wednesday. The City had no problem recruiting 250 people to count the homeless well before the Jan. 18 deadline to sign up.

“I think we’re going to have a really, really spectacular turnout again,” Margaret Willis, Santa Monica’s Human Services Administrator.

While Santa Monica can’t take any more volunteers, Los Angeles is still trying to find 1,100 volunteers to help with its multiple nights of counting, beginning Tuesday in the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Organizers are still looking for volunteers to help in West Los Angeles as well. Volunteers can visit theycountwillyou.org/volunteer to sign up.

In Santa Monica, the volunteers will fan out across the city starting at 10:30 p.m. to count the number of people sleeping on streets and on the shore. The volunteer count is one part of a three-step approach to getting an accurate view of the homeless situation. Shelters, jail staff, and emergency room workers will also tally the number of homeless at their facilities Wednesday night.

In addition, a group of volunteers with USC has been surveying the homeless to get demographic information during the day. Those volunteers try to figure out where people are coming from and ask questions about their access to services. For the first time this year, the survey asks whether the homeless person has a pet and whether that has had an impact on his or her ability to find shelter.

While the forecast predicts a chilly night with lows right around 40 degrees, Willis is thankful for (hopefully) clear skies ahead.

“We do this rain or shine,” Willis said. “It is going to be cold so bundle up: bring your mittens and bring your hats.”

“We try to make it a really fun community event. We have raffle prizes and snacks and time for people to mingle. We try to make it a time for people to come together and get to know other people who care about this issue.”

kate@smdp.com

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