First published in the Jan. 22 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority recently announced the postponement of the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Point-in-Time Homeless Count to Feb. 22-24.
LAHSA cited protecting the health and safety of its volunteers, staff and people experiencing homelessness as the reason for the delay amid the current COVID-19 Omicron variant surge in Los Angeles County.
The Homeless Count will still be conducted over three nights in different parts of the region:
• Feb. 22: San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys
• Feb. 23: West Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, and the South Bay
• Feb. 24: Antelope Valley, Metro Los Angeles, and South Los Angeles
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires continuums of care to conduct PIT counts as a means of determining federal funding to address homelessness, approved the postponement.
“While we work to ensure an accurate homeless count, we cannot ignore the surging number of positive COVID-19 cases across our region,” said LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston. “Even with safety precautions such as moving training online, developing outdoor deployment sites and keeping households together, moving forward with a count in January places our unhoused neighbors, volunteers, staff and the accuracy of the count at risk.”
Even before the Omicron variant led to a surge, LAHSA made several anticipated design changes to the count to limit COVID-19 transmission, including:
• Moving most deployment sites outdoors; at many sites, volunteers will not leave their cars to pick up their count packets
• Moving training sessions online to minimize the time volunteers spend at the deployment sites; COVID safety instructions are included in the training
• Encouraging all volunteers to sign up as a “safety bubble” of two to three people and arrive at the deployment sites together to minimize cross-group interactions
• Requiring all volunteers to wear masks
• Encouraging all volunteers to be vaccinated
Last year, the homeless count’s main component, the unsheltered street count, could not be conducted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The availability of vaccinations enabled the resumption of the count for 2022 with appropriate precautions.
In 2020, the last time the count could safely be conducted, 66,436 people were found to be living on the street in tents, makeshift dwellings and vehicles across Los Angeles County, including 291 people in Burbank.
LAHSA continues to seek volunteers to count in February. Those interested can visit theycountwillyou.org for more information and to register.