Los Angeles County’s annual count of homeless residents began Tuesday night — a crucial part of the region’s efforts to get tens of thousands of unhoused people off the streets.
Up to 6,000 clipboard-toting volunteers with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority fanned out for the effort’s main component, the unsheltered street tally. Santa Monica’s count began Wednesday.
The so-called “point-in-time” count will take place over three days and aims to estimate how many people are unhoused and what services they may require, such as mental health or drug addiction treatment.
LA County’s count is the largest among similar tallies in major cities nationwide. The tally, which also makes use of demographic surveys and shelter counts, is mandated by the federal government for cities to receive certain kinds of funding.
The count this year comes amid public outrage over the perceived failure — despite costly efforts — to reduce the surging population of people living in cars, tents and makeshift street shelters.
The 2022 count reported more than 69,000 people were homeless on any given night in LA County, a 4.1% rise from 2020. About 42,000 were within the city of Los Angeles, where public frustration has grown as tents have proliferated on sidewalks and in parks and other locations.
That year, Santa Monica reported 807 people living homeless either in tents and makeshift shelters, vehicles, sleeping rough on the street, or within homeless shelters. While the count was an 11-percent decline in the total number of homeless people tallied compared to the most recent data available there were questions over the accuracy of the total countywide.
The 2021 count was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Karen Bass, the new mayor of Los Angeles, joined LA city and county officials to kick off the count in the North Hollywood neighborhood of LA’s San Fernando Valley.
“Frankly, the only way we’re really going to get a handle on this crisis is if we all have skin in the game, and that’s what tonight is — skin in the game,” Bass said at a press conference.
The count also got under way in the San Gabriel Valley east of downtown.
On her first day in office last month, Bass declared a state of emergency on homelessness. The mayor, a Democrat, has said that in her first year, she intends to move more than 17,000 homeless people into interim and permanent housing.
City Hall, the City Council and the LA County Board of Supervisors have said they intend to work together to tackle the crisis. Progress hasn’t been apparent despite billions spent on programs to curb homelessness, including $1.2 billion in the current city budget.
Homelessness remains hugely visible throughout California with people living in tents and cars and sleeping outdoors on sidewalks and under highway overpasses.
The results of the homeless count are expected to be released in late spring or early summer.