Santa Monica’s annual homeless count is currently recruiting volunteers for the Jan. 22 event.

Anyone can participate in the count if they sign the general liability waiver, but volunteers must be at least 18 years old or accompanied by an adult. The count happens every year, rain or shine, and begins at 10:30 p.m. with check-in. Volunteers are finished between 2 and 3 a.m. Count teams walk up to three miles in a designated zone to count the number of people sleeping outside. The information gathered is used to secure state funding and evaluate the success of local programs.

At the state level, the count is required to secure a share of $650 million in Emergency Homelessness Aid.

“California is doing more than ever before to tackle the homelessness crisis but every level of government, including the federal government, must step up and put real skin in the game,” said Governor Gavin Newsom when he announced the funding as part of the budget. “California is making historic investments now to help our communities fight homelessness. But we have work to do and we need the federal government to do its part.”

At the local level, the count has been used to direct services to areas with the greatest need.

“If you want your concern about homelessness in Santa Monica to count, well, this is your chance to count,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown. “You’ll be working with your neighbors to help us understand where and how we can most effectively continue our efforts. We’ll provide training and support for new volunteers, and you’ll come away knowing you’ve been part of the solution to one of our community’s most challenging, and heartbreaking, issues.”

According to the 2019 count, about half of homeless individuals in Santa Monica live at the beach or downtown, but there were 19 percent fewer people living downtown than last year. City Hall had previously focused outreach teams in the Downtown area and the change in population density caused officials to redeploy some resources to the beach.

The city’s homeless population hovered around 700 for several years before jumping 26 percent in 2017 to 921. However, the 2018 count only showed a four percent increase and the 2019 count recorded a three percent bump to 985 people.

The 2019 data showed a slight reduction in the number of people living on the streets and an increase in people living in their vehicles or in encampments. More people were staying in shelters and hospitals, and fewer were in jail. Countywide, 58,936 individuals were reported as experiencing homelessness – an increase of 12% from the year prior.

The 2020 count will be held on Jan. 22. Check-in is at St. Monica’s church, 725 California Ave.

Visit https://www.weare.santamonica.gov/homeless-count to register or contact humanservices@smgov.net for more information.

editor@smdp.com

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