LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Thousands of volunteers took to the streets Tuesday night to kick off a three-night effort to count homeless people in the Greater Los Angeles area.
The count is organized by the city- and county-run Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The tally will include most of Los Angeles County, with the cities of Long Beach, Glendale and Pasadena under different jurisdictions.
The count, which will continue on Wednesday and Thursday nights, is an effort to “put a face on who the homeless are and paint a picture about the state of homelessness,” Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority spokeswoman Naomi Goldman said. The authority is hoping to cover as much as 95 percent of the census tracts, she said.
One volunteer, Angelica Lopez, said she had to get involved since she has seen an increase in the homeless population recently.
“I see it on my way to work and on my way home,” she said. “It t just seems like its affecting everybody.”
Andy Bales of Union Rescue Mission said the problem has become much worse in recent years.
“It’s an absolute epidemic,” he said. “It’s an absolute crisis.”
A myriad of factors are to blame, according to experts, including rising rents and a mental health crisis.
The Los Angeles City Council is meanwhile working on new rules to govern encampments and tents on public sidewalks.
The volunteers’ data gathered is used to help the authority request and allocate funding for homeless services, she said.
Past homeless counts have yielded demographics on the number of people who are chronically homeless, victims of domestic violence or sufferers of mental illness, and whether they are single, part of a family or an unaccompanied minor.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has been doing the count on a biannual basis since 2005. The last count, done in 2015, found that there are more 44,000 homeless people in the Los Angeles area — a 12 percent increase from the 2013 figure.
This year’s count is being done earlier than usual thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and marks “the first year of what is hoped to be an annual count,” Goldman said.
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