Riverside County will expand its annual count of the homeless to include people living in cars, which includes individuals and families, organizers of the January 2020 Point in Time Count announced this week.
“We want to make sure as many people are counted as possible,” said Jennifer Claar, assistant director of Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, which spearheads the annual homeless count. “By getting a more accurate count, we are helping ensure our communities get the funding and support they need to find solutions to homelessness.”
The expanded search will help count homeless individuals who are not as visible as those living on the streets. Volunteers will search known locations where the homeless live in cars.
“Going beyond the streets and encampments give us a better understanding about the scope of homelessness in Riverside County,” said Supervising Code Officer Marr Christian. Riverside County Code Enforcement has been leading teams for several years to count people living in encampments and hard to reach areas.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities that receive funding for homeless programs, including Riverside County, to perform the count. It serves as a snapshot of homelessness in local communities.
Volunteers are signing up now for the count, which is scheduled from Jan. 29 to Jan. 31. Volunteers will team up with law enforcement, including Riverside County deputies, to fan out from deployment sites and count unsheltered adults and youth in cities and unincorporated communities.
“We are happy to escort and assist community volunteers with counting our homeless,” said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.
More than 700 volunteers are needed for January’s count. Organizers say widespread participation from those who know their communities and who can communicate effectively with those who are homeless is essential to obtaining an accurate count.
Volunteers will use an app to conduct the count. As an incentive to complete the survey, volunteers will hand out bags with various items to help the homeless keep warm in the cold winter months.
Some will count homeless adults during a single-day event, while other volunteers will count homeless youth under age 24 over three days. Luis Lopez, coordinator for the 2020 Point in Time Youth Count, believes homeless youth in Riverside County are an undercounted population.
“This is a vulnerable population that doesn’t always reach out for services,” Lopez said. “We’re looking for more youth-friendly volunteers who can really connect with kids and teens to make sure they’re counted and get the help they need and deserve.”
The 2019 Count identified a total of 2,811 sheltered and unsheltered homeless adults and children countywide, a 21-percent increase from the 2018 count. The data helps track progress in the effort to end homelessness.
Training is required prior to the count. Volunteers must also have a smart phone or tablet to conduct the survey, be able to walk up to two hours and must be 18 or older. Volunteers ages 16-17 must be accompanied by an adult.
The Point in Time Count is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. The Youth Count is scheduled Jan. 29 – Jan. 31 from 2:00 to 8 p.m.
Interested participants can register by clicking here.
- Homeless in cars: Shutterstock