With the annual homeless count on the horizon, county officials have announced plans to revise the system for measuring homelessness.

With the annual homeless count on the horizon, county officials have announced plans to revise the system for measuring homelessness in Los Angeles County after critics of last year’s results said the system produced obviously inaccurate results.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) announced an “array of updates” for this year that includes hiring a demography and two data scientists to help optimize data analysis, increasing training, deployment of a new app for volunteers, backup systems in case the digital count software fails and a new policy to consider any census tract with missing data to be “uncounted” requiring the use of make-up count teams to verify those results.

The changes come after County residents, specifically those in areas with known homeless populations like Venice, criticized last years efforts that reported zero homeless individuals living in some of the city’s most robust homeless areas.

At the time, LAHSA said technical problems may have resulted in some undercounts but it defended the overall results saying it had a methodology in place to account for specific problems. However, the statement released Wednesday seemed to address some of the specific shortcomings listed last year.

LAHSA said it partners with data experts at the University of Southern California, with guidance from HUD, to design the process for creating an accurate estimate of unhoused people living in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care.

“The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is an important resource for understanding the scope and nature of homelessness in Los Angeles County. LAHSA continues to refine and improve our approach in the interest of a more accurate count with greater stakeholder involvement,” said Stephen David Simon, Interim Executive Director of LAHSA. “The Count is an opportunity to reflect on the life-saving impact of our collective investments, the challenges we continue to tackle together, and the humanity of the homelessness crisis.”

During the count, multiple agencies including the City of Santa Monica, go out into the streets to physically count the number of individuals sleeping outside.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires a biennial point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness. Though not intended for use as a census of neighborhood-level geographies, officials said the count is vital for developing a comprehensive picture of homelessness in our region.

For the 2023 Homeless Count, LAHSA will offer in-person training using the new app built by ESRI, an app developer with years of experience conducting point-in-time counts nationwide. LAHSA continues to look for opportunities to improve processes and procedures related to the Count and to build upon the adjustments made based on lessons learned with the 2022 Homeless Count.

LAHSA is also looking for thousands of additional volunteers to participate in this year’s Homeless Count between Jan. 24 and Jan. 26. Anyone interested in volunteering can visit https://www.theycountwillyou.org/ to learn more.

Santa Monica is also recruiting for the local event.

The Santa Monica count will be held on Jan. 25. The event will stage at St. Monica’s church but all training is provided online.

While the city is still encouraging people to register with pre-formed teams to expedite the deployment process, individuals can sign up on their own and will be matched with other volunteers on site to create teams as needed. The City will not be checking vaccination status or require masking in alignment with current public health guidance but volunteers are warned they may be sharing a car or confined space with teammates during the count.

To register for the Santa Monica count, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/hc2023.

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, or 16-17 and accompanied by a parent/guardian on a 1:1 ratio always. Volunteers ages 16-17 must be registered as part of a team of 3 or 4 people by an adult who is 18 or older.

All volunteers are required to sign a general liability waiver and photo release but no skills or experience are required.


Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...