Counting the Homeless
to Better Deliver Services

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas talks to man living in a homeless encampment in North Hollywood during the first night of the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors.

More than 8,000 volunteers spread out across 4,000 square miles on three winter nights to conduct the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

Homeless Count press conference. L-R: Councilwoman Nury Martinez, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Controller Ron Galperin, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors

The data from the federally mandated census will offer a comprehensive look at the state of homelessness in Los Angeles County on any given night, including geographic distribution and trends among various populations. It will be released to the public in May.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas counted in North Hollywood on the first night, Carson on the second night, and Leimert Park on the third night.

“The Count will help us identify where resources are most needed and measure progress as nonprofits ramp up their services to a level never seen before, thanks to Measure H,” he said, referring to the 1/4-cent sales tax approved by voters on March 2017 to generate about $355 million annually to end and prevent homelessness.

Homeless Count volunteers study a census map at the Juanita Millender McDonald Community Center in Carson. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors.

“Thanks to Measure H, LA County’s public and nonprofit partners are gearing up to house 45,000 men, women and children over the next five years, and prevent homelessness for 30,000 others,” added the Supervisor, who championed Measure H. “Each of us has a part to play in helping resolve this humanitarian crisis and this includes the essential work of the 8,000 volunteers who participate in the Homeless Count.”

“Every Angeleno counts, whether they have an address or not,”  Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a press conference to kick off the Count. “This year’s count takes on new importance because it will help us better target and deliver the permanent supportive housing, emergency shelter, and ongoing services that Angelenos made possible when they voted for Prop. HHH and Measure H.”

A volunteer interacts with a woman at a homeless encampment in Carson. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors

Proposition HHH, passed in November 2016, would finance the construction of 8,000 to 10,000 permanent supportive housing units for the chronically homeless over the next decade. It would also fund affordable housing, temporary shelters and other amenities needed by the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.

“In the face of one of the most fraught epidemics our city has faced, the Count is our opportunity to make a difference,” City Controller Ron Galperin said at the press conference. “Homelessness is experienced in every part of our city, and by children and adults; however, without a proper accounting of exactly where our most vulnerable are – including homeless veterans, teens or those escaping domestic violence – we may not be able to adequately help those in dire need. Please join me in making sure that everyone counts.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Homeless Count volunteers who had assembled at the Juanita Millender McDonald Community Center in Carson. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors.

“Good policy starts with having good information,” Councilwoman Nury Martinez added.  “The data from tonight’s count will go a long way toward determining where resources are most urgently needed and how they should be applied.”

“The results of the Count help us implement the best strategies to meet our homeless neighbors’ needs, together,” said Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, President and CEO, the nonprofit LA Family Housing.

The “street count” occurred in the San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita, as well as the San Gabriel Valley, on January 23. It moved to West LA, the South Bay and East Los Angeles on January 24, and in the Antelope Valley, South LA and Central LA on January 25.

In addition to the “street count,” a “shelter count” was also conducted, during which shelters and transitional housing programs counted the number of people in their programs. The Youth Count is a survey-based count during the last two weeks of January. The final component is one-on-one interviews with 6,000 people to capture demographic information.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Homeless Count volunteers assembled at Community Build in Leimert Park. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.