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Volunteers needed to help count County’s homeless population

HOMELESS COUNT
Cropped Photo: Timothy Balogh / CC BY 2.0

Riverside County officials put out a call today for volunteers to help tally the number of homeless countywide as part of an annual survey that will take place near the start of next year.

The county's 2020 "Point-in-Time Homeless Count" is slated for Jan. 29-31, when Department of Public Social Services personnel will canvass multiple locations to gauge how many people are living on the streets and in shelters. Individuals affiliated with faith-based organizations, college students, members of neighborhood watch groups, and anyone else interested is welcome to lend a hand, according to DPSS officials. The county is seeking at least 700 volunteers to assist with the three- day count. Roughly that same number participated in the 2019 survey, which documented 2,811 sheltered and unsheltered homeless adults and minors throughout the county, compared to 2,310 in 2018.

"We're looking for more youth-friendly volunteers who can really connect with kids and teens to help them open up about their experiences with homelessness,'' said Luis Lopez, who is coordinating the youth component of the survey. "Having a better sense of the scope of youth homelessness can help us get the funding needed to house this vulnerable population."

The countywide census is mandated under a U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development grant that uses count data to determine funding for homeless mitigation programs in the county.

"Homelessness is not an issue any one group or community can solve on their own,'' said Natalie Profant Komuro, deputy county executive officer. "We have to work together to get the most accurate count possible, which helps determine where we put those much-needed dollars and services to help our homeless neighbors get back on their feet."

"The count will be split between a street-level operation and a "service-based survey.''

During the street walk, volunteers will visit parks, alleyways, overpasses and encampments to ascertain the number of people living in places not intended for habitation, according to DPSS.

The service survey will entail visiting shelters.

Some training is required before volunteers can carry out the survey. Most of the count will be conducted on Jan. 29. However, volunteers will specifically look for homeless persons who are under 25 years old during the ensuing two days, according to DPSS. Lopez said the number of dispossessed youth is likely under-counted each year.

Supervisor Karen Spiegel, who represents the county's Second District, complained last January that she and her staff could not volunteer to help with the Point-In-Time Homeless Count because it fell on a Tuesday -- when the Board of Supervisors was in session. The Executive Office agreed to no longer hold the count on Tuesdays after hearing Spiegel's grievance.

Information about registering to take part in the survey can be found at https://rivcoexchange.com/ .

City News Service

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