The annual homeless count in Riverside County is just days away. Dozens of volunteers will disperse throughout the region to survey the amount of homeless individuals between January 29th-30th.
"We’ve doubled our volunteers over the past couple years. We’ve also implemented an app-based counting too," Government Affairs and Public Policy Advisor to Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, Greg Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says the upgrades are crucial in the upcoming Point-in-Time Count survey for 2020.
“We’re getting better counts, we’re counting more people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that our numbers haven’t gone down," Rodriguez said.
The amount of people counted can ultimately determine the amount of money the county receives from the state and federal government. Rodriguez says if numbers go up, government funding goes down and state funding increases.
Riverside County is currently in the process of training volunteers to go out and survey local communities.
"We basically deploy in teams and regions so that you don’t have the same people covering the same area," Rodriguez said.
The practice aims at avoiding counting a certain individual twice. Rodriguez says the county has now switched from a paper survey to a geol-located app that helps assign volunteers a specific map of where to go.
"Of course the answers are all anonymous. We only identify by first initial and last initial of the name. We’re asking a lot of demographic information about the name. The first question of course is, 'Where did you sleep last night?' and there’s different criteria on where you qualify as homelessness," Rodriguez said.
A new feature also includes counting individuals who are living out of a vehicle or RV.
Last year's numbers for 2019 found reported a total of 2,811 homeless people countywide. It was an increase of 21% from 2018. Now, there are new challenges.
"Age is a huge factor here. What we’re experiencing here in the Coachella Valley is a sharp increase in the number of homeless seniors," Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, Palm Springs is on track to receive $10 million dollars in state funding. The city council is in the process of bringing in a consultant to see how to effectively utilize that money.
"We’re really looking at housing, homeless prevention. If we can keep people from becoming homeless in the first place you just stop the process right in its tracks," Palm Springs Mayor, Geoff Kors said.
The city will also participate in the upcoming homeless count. Officials say around 150 volunteers are expected this year.