Effort to tally number of homeless set for next week

Riverside County’s point-in-time homeless count will go forward as planned next week, officials said Thursday, with hundreds of volunteers and county employees slated to fan out to tally the number of people who are chronically unsheltered, including here in Palm Springs.

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the point-in-time count for Riverside County to continue receiving federal funding for homeless programs,” a Department of Public Social Services statement read. “The count also helps agencies better target where resources should be placed, as well as tracks progress in the effort to reduce homelessness.”

The principal countywide census is set for Feb. 23. However, there will be ongoing surveys on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 to better gauge youth homelessness, officials said.

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The count was originally scheduled for Jan. 26-28, but that was rescinded and replaced with the new dates because of an upswing in coronavirus infections last month.

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For a complete look at California’s homelessness crisis, turn to this explainer from our content partners at CalMatters.

Members of faith-based groups, churches and civic affairs organizations, along with college students and many others have signed up to take part in the effort. There will additionally be employees from DPSS, the Department of Housing & Workforce Solutions and public safety agencies involved. In Palm Springs, the efforts will include city employees, Communications Director Amy Blaisdell said Thursday.

More than 700 volunteers are expected to be on hand to verify the status of individuals living in cars, under bridges, in transient encampments, homeless shelters and other locations throughout the county.

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

The January 2020 count revealed that nearly 3,000 adults and youths were chronically homeless countywide — about a 3% increase from the prior
year. That number included an estimated 180 unhoused individuals in Palm Springs. It is believed that number in the city is much higher.

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

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 HUD 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: Interested participants can register at MoreThanACount.org. For complete information, turn here.

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