The Road Home
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The Road Home

Wrapping Up the Count: A Look at the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count

On Jan. 21–23, thousands of volunteers from the Antelope Valley to the South Bay and everywhere in between took part in the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, our annual tally of the number of people experiencing homelessness in LA County.

Meeting for training at churches and community centers in their neighborhoods, volunteers set out on foot (and some cases by car) to cover every census tract in their area, counting unsheltered individuals and families, as well as parked cars, tents and structures that indicate an unsheltered person is living there.

The visual point-in-time count is just one aspect of the homeless count, which also includes a demographic survey, a count of youth ages 18–24 experiencing homelessness by trained staff, and separate counts by hospitals and educational institutions. All of this research is analyzed by the team of data researchers at LAHSA and their partners at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Learn more about how the count works here.

The Count is required by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to determine the level of federal funding LA will receive for homeless services. The numbers generated by volunteers during the three-day Count are just the start, as we use encampment density metrics to cull the final numbers and work with professional demographers on a more detailed demographic survey.

At each deployment site, volunteers are given a short orientation and handed clipboards with census tracts and sheets to tabulate the people and living areas they see. Many of these volunteers (including students!) participated for the first time, as an entry point to offer more support for people experiencing homelessness in their community. For some, it demonstrated the scale of the crisis, and what they could be doing to help throughout the year.

“I’m happy to feel like I’m doing something, but we’re just scratching the surface,” said Carley Markovitz, a volunteer in Echo Park. “We’re here, we’re contributing, but now I actually want to get more involved and feel like I’m actually making a difference, like helping to clean up trash that doesn’t belong to anyone or provide resources.”

Markovitz’s team counted just 11 people and living areas in their residential census tract between Glendale Blvd and Alvarado Blvd, but met one unhoused man who passed the group and thanked them for their work.

“Make sure to count me,” he said. “I move around a lot so I’ve never been counted before.”

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