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Homeless authority to conduct annual count Jan. 24-26

LOS ANGELES — Volunteers will discover the scope of homelessness in the greater Los Angeles area during the annual homeless count taking place Jan. 24-26.

Participants, divided into teams, will tally the number of people they see on the street, as well as the number of tents and encampments.

On Jan. 24, groups will target the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys, San Gabriel Valley and East L.A. On Jan. 25, they will focus on West L.A., the South Bay and Santa Monica, and on Jan. 26, Antelope Valley, West L.A., Palisades/Malibu and South L.A.

Naomi Goldman of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said the results help to “understand trends and where needs are shifting. It’s important to make sure programs and services are delivered where they are most in need.”

The authority, which is sponsoring the homeless count, is a joint powers agency of the city and county of Los Angeles. It was created in 1993 to address the problems of homelessness in L.A.

The authority is the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, a program that receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It coordinates and manages more than $132 million annually in federal, state, county and city funds for programs providing shelter, housing and services to homeless people, according to its website.

Last year, the homeless county drew more than 7,500 volunteers. Goldman said the agency was only aiming for 6,000.

“Volunteers and community partners are the backbone of this effort,” she said. “If you want to end homelessness, this is a great way to get involved and find out what’s happening in your community.”

Volunteers do not require any prior experience, and can still sign up for this year’s count on the website http://www.theycountwillyou.org.

In addition to the street count, the authority conducts a shelter count from emergency shelters, transitional housing, safe havens and vouchered motels/hotels. It also takes a census of homeless youth and the demographics of the unsheltered population.

In 2016, the total estimated number of homeless people in L.A. County was 46,874, an overall increase of 2,515 people or 5.7 percent from 2015.

The city of L.A. saw a higher increase at 11 percent, but the rates in South and East L.A. remained relatively flat, with decreases of one and three percent, respectively, from the previous year.

Culver City, which is included in the West L.A. tabulation, saw an increase of 9 percent last year.

The results also found that African-Americans experienced homelessness disproportionately, as they represent 39 percent of the homeless population, but only nine percent of the general population in L.A.

Homeless females and young people increased as well. So far, results show a trend of a 55 percent increase of homeless females countywide. Unsheltered people ages 18 to 24 increased by 12 percent.

Goldman said she does not want to make any projections about this year’s results but did say that the fight to end homelessness “has never been a higher priority.”

Last November, voters in the city of Los Angeles approved Measure HHH, a $1.2 million bond measure to raise property taxes by .01 percent to pay for housing and shelters. And after next week, the numbers will reveal just how much of a problem there is to tackle.