Date changed for countywide effort to tally number of homeless

Riverside County’s point-in-time homeless count will be moved to February instead of the end of this month, due to concerns about the recent upswing in coronavirus cases, which officials said Saturday they hoped would abate in a month.

“We made the decision to postpone,” Department of Housing & Workforce Solutions Director Heidi Marshall said. “Our goal is to conduct a comprehensive and accurate count while ensuring appropriate safeguards for all involved.”

COVID-19 infections have contributed to nearly 1,000 hospitalizations countywide, according to the county Department of Public Health. Currently there are 43 people at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs who have been admitted due to COVID. To give the latest virus wave time to taper off, officials rescheduled the point-in-time tally to Feb. 23-25. It had originally been planned for Jan. 26-28.

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The additional time to recruit volunteers also will be helpful, according to the county.

Members of faith-based groups, churches, civic affairs organizations, college students and many others are needed for the effort.

“The information we collect allows us to make informed decisions about where our resources should be targeted,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said when the count was announced last month.

Roughly 380 volunteers have signed up to date, but the county ideally would like to have more than 700 available to find and verify the status of individuals who may be living in cars, under bridges, in transient encampments, homeless shelters and other locations throughout the county.

The 2021 homeless census was severely curtailed, with virtually no canvassing of known transient dwelling spaces, because of the coronavirus public health lockdowns last winter. Reports were based only on shelter interactions and did not provide an accurate representation of the county’s homeless population.

The January 2020 count revealed nearly 3,000 adults and youths were chronically homeless countywide — about a 3% increase from the prior year.

No previous experience with the point-in-time count is necessary to volunteer. Some training is required, and although youths as young as 16 years old can participate, minors will have to be accompanied by an adult, according to officials.

Volunteers must also have a smart phone or tablet to conduct the survey and be able to walk up to two hours.

The data is used by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials to determine how to distribute federal homeless relief funding, and by policy makers in determining the scope of homelessness nationwide — including what’s working, and what’s not.

More information: All those interested in participating are encouraged to register at this website.

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