The annual homeless count has concluded countywide after the regional authority in charge finished recounts in over 200 locations.
Municipalities across the state count the number of homeless people living within their borders annually as part of a mandate from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to receive funding and as a tool to measure the scale of the ongoing crisis.
About 300 volunteers participated in the Santa Monica count during January. Volunteer teams were sent to specific areas within each census tract to tally the number of people who appear to be living in homelessness outside, in cars, tents and other make-shift shelters. By doing it across the region at the same time, officials hope to make it less likely to double count or miss individuals who move around. The number of people in shelters is also calculated on the same night.
After a Covid-induced hiatus, the count returned last year but was dogged with criticism over its accuracy. In response, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) announced an “array of updates” for this year that includes hiring a demographer 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 failed 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.
LAHSA oversees the Los Angeles efforts and said it had completed counts in 93% of census tracts.
“The Homeless 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. To provide the best picture possible, we needed thousands of volunteers willing to count their unsheltered neighbors,” said Stephen David Simon, Interim Executive Director of LAHSA this week. “Thanks to their partnership and a well-executed quality assurance process, the Homeless Count results will paint a transparent picture of people experiencing homelessness in our region at a single point in time.”
According to LAHSA, 6,066 volunteers worked on the effort this year. Some cities also assigned civic employees to the task and several special teams consisting of LAHSA outreach, County Park staff, and law enforcement counted in census tracts near creeks or other high-risk areas.
LAHSA said this week that out of the 3,193 census tracts for this year’s Homeless Count, the count teams completed 2,967 census tracts over the first three nights. LAHSA outreach teams conducted make-up counts on the remaining 229 census tracts due to missing or incomplete data, including 17 census tracts located in dangerous areas like creeks or rivers, which is down from 480 make-up census tracts in 2022.
Officials said that over three nights the mobile data collection app successfully captured 95.6% of the census tract data captured by count teams.
The system did encounter a glitch on Night 2 (Jan. 25).
“The near real-time synchronization between LAHSA headquarters and site coordinators’ digital dashboard and the volunteers’ collection app experienced a delay between 9:30-11:00 p.m,” said a report by LAHSA. “While the disruption created a lag in the real-time sync time to the database, it did not impact volunteers’ ability to accurately collect data on their phones, as the mobile app is designed to work in offline scenarios. All data was captured and populated into the system. The disruption also did not impact the mobile backup survey tool the deployment site leads used to submit data and photos of the maps.”
Results will be released to the public in several months after the University of Southern California (USC) performs a statistical analysis.
While the Homeless Count has concluded, if any volunteer believes that the deployment site did not record the data they collected during their count, they should contact LAHSA immediately at email@example.com so the agency can take the appropriate steps to ensure all data are recorded.