Commerce Opts-In for the 2016 Homeless Count

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Commerce City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to participate in the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count taking place Jan. 26 to Jan. 28.

The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA)—a City and County of Los Angeles joint power authority formed to address homelessness—is diligently working on its annual homeless count in the City and County of Los Angeles.

Lea este artículo en Español: Commerce Opta por Inclusión en Conteo de Personas Sin Hogar 2016

In 2009, LAHSA expanded its Opt-In provision to allow more local cities and communities to coordinate homeless counts within their borders using local volunteers from public and private agencies. In 2015, 248 cities and communities—including neighborhood councils—enumerated all of their census tracts.

This year, about 126 cities and communities —including Bell Gardens, Monterey Park, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and Northeast Los Angeles — have signed up to take part, according to Kimberly Barnette, LAHSA regional coordinator.

She told EGP they are still working on getting the cities of Montebello and Vernon to join the massive effort.

The Opt-In Program makes it possible for LAHSA, with a high level of confidence, to obtain specific data and totals on the homeless population in every census tract in a city or neighborhood, according to LAHSA spokesperson Naomi Goldman.

“Participation allows jurisdictions to access the methodology of the 2016 Homeless Count to obtain a Point-In-Time Count estimate of the sheltered and unsheltered homeless population,” she told EGP via email. “Opting-in allows cities, neighborhoods and communities to understand the situation, bring resources to local communities and drive civic engagement.”

Barnette—who made a power presentation about LAHSA’s homeless count to the Commerce Council Tuesday—said they have already identified hot spots for homelessness, some of those areas are near Rosewood Park and Atlantic and Washington Boulevards.

Locaciones identificadas donde se congregan desamparados en Commerce y ciudades vecinas. (LAHSA)

Locaciones identificadas donde se congregan desamparados en Commerce y ciudades vecinas. (LAHSA)

In 2015, LAHSA identified over 44,000 homeless living in the Los Angeles regions. Those numbers do not include Long Beach, Pasadena or Glendale.

During the last homeless count, LAHSA identified 52 homeless in Commerce, all of them adults; 20 living in campers, 15 in vans and cars, 9 on the street, 6 in encampments and 2 living in tents.

Over the past two years, Commerce has made assisting the homeless a priority, said Matthew Rodriguez, director of public safety and community services with Commerce.

“We have reached out to as many as possible and have had success with placement in local shelters,” he told EGP, explaining that outreach is conducted through the city’s Social Services Department.

According to Rodriguez, staff refers the city’s homeless to the Salvation Army’s 70-bed shelter in nearby Bell or connect them to the People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) agency in Los Angeles.

Councilwoman Tina Baca del Rio, however, said she is worried that the homeless people in Commerce may not want help because they have found a way of living by earning easy money.

“Panhandling has become a way of life [in Commerce]…[homeless people] say they get a lot of money from people that go to casinos,” she said, asking Barnette to have LAHSA look into that issue.

“Maybe they can get more services instead of relying on panhandling,” she said.

By opting in, Commerce will be responsible for counting all the unsheltered homeless people in the agreed-upon census tracts. They also need to find a deployment site, select a site coordinator and recruit volunteers.

Rodriguez told EGP Commerce has already taken care of almost everything, but are still in need of more volunteers. He said Commerce residents interested in helping can sign up with the Public Safety and Community Services Department located inside City Hall.

Along with volunteers, about 15 city staff and Sheriff deputies will take part in the count, said Rodriguez.

“There are some areas where we don’t want to send volunteers, so it’s better if the officers go there,” he added.

While Commerce has participated the past three years in the homeless count, this time is different, City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP.

“Previously, this was under the aegis of the regional Gateway Council of Governments (COG),” a more local and informal count, he said. “During this time period the process has become more formalized and at least for Commerce a much more accurate and thorough process.”

LAHSA expects to deploy about 6,000 volunteers during the three-day count in the city and county.

Since 2005, LAHSA has coordinated six biennial homeless counts, however, starting 2016 the count will occur annually, according to the agency’s website.

For those interested in volunteering or to obtain more information about the 2016 homeless count visit, www.theycountwillyou.com.

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