Individual sign-ups are no longer accepted; only pre-formed teams of 3-4 volunteers may register.

Each year, a cadre of volunteers branches out across Santa Monica collecting data about the local community of homeless people sleeping on the beach, streets and in cars dotted throughout the city.

The annual homeless count happens not just in Santa Monica but across the country each winter. The results are the basis for the City’s strategy to combat homelessness and help all levels of government determine how to distribute resources in the face of the homelessness crisis. The count is also required by the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

This year’s count is “as important as ever,” Santa Monica City staff told the Daily Press; last year’s count was suspended because of COVID-19.

Because of the omicron coronavirus variant, this year’s count — initially scheduled for late January — was delayed by one month, but is set to take place on Feb. 23. The event’s organizers say volunteers are in critically short supply.

“Additional volunteer teams are urgently needed this February 23 for the annual Homeless Count. We need enough teams to cover every census tract in the City in order to collect accurate data and help inform how and where resources are deployed to address homelessness,” information from the City of Santa Monica stated. “This annual event brings Santa Monicans together in the spirit of helping our community address homelessness. So let’s do this, Santa Monica!”

Because of virus concerns, some changes are taking place this year; chief among them is that volunteers are asked to create their own teams of three to four people who are in the same “pandemic bubble” or otherwise comfortable driving together in the same vehicle. The City asked that the pre-formed teams sign up together at surveymonkey.com/r/smhcount2022.

Individuals may not sign up without forming a team — that includes anyone who signed up as an individual for the previously-scheduled January count.

The deadline to request COVID-19 vaccine exemptions has passed.

“Volunteers will be required to provide proof of being fully vaccinated for COVID-19, along with a photo ID, as well as complete a Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (included with the waiver) upon entry to the deployment site,” City information stated.

The count is set to begin at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23, and last until about 3 a.m. Thursday. Prior to the count, volunteers are asked to watch virtual training videos, which are available on the City’s homeless count website. Volunteers must be at least 16, though 16-17-year-olds must be accompanied by a parent/guardian on a 1:1 ratio at all times.

The annual homeless count “is a visual count only” — volunteers will not be asked to speak with or interact with unhoused people.

More information is available at www.santamonica.gov/santa-monica-homeless-count.

emily@smdp.com