2022 homeless count getting underway in LA County

Following a one-month postponement due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County, the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Point-in-Time Homeless Count gets underway Tuesday night -- with volunteers spreading out to get an accurate count of the number of unhoused people in the area.

The count will take place over three nights beginning Tuesday, starting in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.

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On Wednesday, the count will be held in West L.A., Southeast L.A. and the South Bay area. On Thursday, counters will fan out in the Antelope Valley, Metro L.A. and South L.A.

The effort is essential to understanding how large the region's homelessness crisis has become. It must be conducted by Continuum of Care providers to receive federal funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This year's count will be the county's first since 2020, as last year's was canceled when LAHSA determined it was not safe to gather 8,000 volunteers amid stay-at-home orders and curfews due to COVID-19.

The county received an exemption from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was not required to conduct a 2021 count.

This year's count was originally planned for Jan. 25-27, but the county's surge in COVID cases, fueled by the Omicron variant, forced a change in plans.

"While we work to ensure an accurate homeless count, we cannot ignore the surging number of positive COVID-19 cases across our region," LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said on Jan. 14, when the postponement was announced.

"This decision is our best path to ensure the accuracy of the homeless count without putting the health and safety of persons experiencing homelessness, volunteers and the community at risk."

LAHSA had already made design changes to this year's count due to COVID-19, even before the Omicron variant surge forced the postponement.

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The changes include moving deployment sites outdoors, moving volunteer training sessions online, encouraging volunteers to minimize cross-group interactions, requiring masks and encouraging volunteers to be vaccinated.

"The homeless count is an essential tool in giving us a point-in-time snapshot of homelessness. Data from the count is used to inform the delivery of services and programs for people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles," Marston said.

According to the 2020 count, the county's homeless population increased by 12.7% over the previous year, while the city of Los Angeles' homeless population jumped by 14.2%.

In January 2019, Los Angeles County had 58,936 people experiencing homelessness, but by January 2020, the number rose to 66,433. The city of Los Angeles counted 36,165 in 2019 and 41,290 in 2020.

Results of the 2022 count are expected to be made public by LAHSA over the summer.

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