Winter COVID surge forces delay in LA County homeless count

The annual Los Angeles homeless count, originally scheduled for later this month, has been postponed to Feb. 22-24, amid the COVID-19 surge, the countywide homeless services authority announced Friday, Jan. 14.

The new dates for the L.A. Homeless Services Authority’s count are:

Feb. 22 in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys;
Feb. 23 in West Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, and the South Bay; and
Feb. 24 in Antelope Valley, Metro Los Angeles, and South Los Angeles.

Volunteers can sign up at: https://www.theycountwillyou.org.

Every two years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires LAHSA and other similar agencies to do a “point-in-time” count, to reflect the number of unhoused people on a given night.

The count is done throughout the county, with the exception of Long Beach, Pasadena and Burbank. Those cities do their own counts and apply for funding from the federal government separately. Long Beach and Pasadena had already postponed their counts earlier this week. Both pushed pack to Thursday, Feb. 24.

HUD, which uses the results of the count to decide how much funding to provide to LAHSA, has approved the delay, officials said Friday.

Up until last year, when the count was canceled amid the pandemic, LAHSA had been organizing the annual counts.

The county received an exemption from HUD and was not required to conduct a 2021 count due to the pandemic. The decision was made after LAHSA determined it was not safe to gather 8,000 volunteers, given guidance from the county Department of Public Health — and taking into account stay-at-home orders and curfews at the time.

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A “tiny home village” that can serve as interim housing for up to 74 people experiencing homelessness is now open in a former parking lot in Echo Park on Alvarado St. and Scott Ave. on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Though scattered short-term housing efforts have been built recently,  including an array of “tiny home” villages and other shelters, officials fear the county’s homeless crisis deepened during the pandemic. Experts say longer-range housing strategies are still insufficient. Debate on the topic has dominated debate among elected officials at the state, county and local levels and is expected to frame many key election races on the horizon.

Officials said they were concerned about the safety of homeless-count volunteers and unhoused residents.

“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. “Even with safety precautions such as moving training online, developing outdoor deployment sites, and keeping households together, moving forward with a count in January places our unhoused neighbors, volunteers, staff, and the accuracy of the count at risk.”

LAHSA made adjustments to the count’s process this year to address COVID-19 safety, including:

Setting up outdoor sites for deployment of volunteers;
Providing online training to reduce the time volunteers spend at deployment sites, and providing COVID-19 safety instructions in that training;
Urging volunteers to form two- to three-person “safety bubbles” when they sign up;
Requiring that volunteers wear …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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