The Sylmar Neighborhood Council is seeking volunteers for the Homeless Count that will take place in the last week of January.

Hundreds of volunteers are required to conduct the count required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.The results from the census will provide a better understanding of both the number of homeless individuals and families and their needs.

The Los Angeles County Homeless Count will take place Tuesday, Jan. 27, to cover the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles; Wednesday, Jan. 28, in the areas of West Los Angeles and South Bay/Harbor; Thursday, Jan. 29, in the Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, Metro Los Angeles and South Los Angeles. 

Volunteers working in teams will head out on those respective nights, starting at 8 p.m., to survey areas and tally the number of homeless people they observe on the streets, in vehicles or in makeshift shelters such as tarps and tents.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimates 6,000 people are needed to conduct the homeless county, and are encouraging people to participate.  You don’t have to live in the area to volunteer.

Sylmar Homeless Count

Peggy Courtney, Sylmar Neighborhood Council chairwoman of the Underserved Stakeholders Committee, will coordinate the homeless count in the Sylmar area. Sixty to 80 volunteers are needed to help in the count of this area. 

Volunteers make a three-hour commitment for the one night. Sign-in is at 8 p.m., with training and census maps assigned. Teams of 3-4 individuals start the count at 10 p.m., and last about an hour. Most of the count will take place from the comfort of a car, but there will be some volunteer teams on foot as well.

Ann Job, president of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council said those who are homeless are stakeholders too.

“They have a huge stake in their community and should have a voice. It’s really important and I’m excited about getting this done for Sylmar,” Job said.

Volunteers will be receive training at Concordia High School in Sylmar prior to going out into the community.  The Sylmar area can be challenging because it includes both hillside wilderness areas as well as neighborhoods.

“Part of the problem is that the homeless people are often hidden. They are in parks, under freeway overpasses and in alleys or brush areas,” Job said.

“Hopefully once we know where they are, we can help them get resources and into shelters and federal funds can be assigned to Sylmar once we have a number and a snapshots of our homeless.” said

Job, who has volunteered two previous times to participate in the count, added “it is heartbreaking, of course, when you see someone who is homeless. I suspect that there are more people who are homeless in all communities than we realize.” 

Job said she believes neighborhood councils are the right place to facilitate and coordinate volunteers.

“I’m excited about Sylmar people doing the count for Sylmar because because they know the community. As we go through our day-to-day routine, sometimes we don’t see them. But with this count, it will  be our job to see them, not ignore them.”

A “Snapshot” Of Homelessness 

The purpose of the Greater Los Angeles Point-In-Time Homeless Count is to provide a biennial snapshot during the last 10 days of January of the number of homeless persons, their demographic characteristics and the locations where they reside. The Homeless Count is not designed to determine reasons for particular changes or characteristics occurring within the homeless population between counts.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires counties to perform an enumeration of homeless persons on the street every two years, while a count of sheltered homeless persons is required to take place every year.

By volunteering for the Count, you help the region specify need and track progress over time.

Los Angeles County has seen a jump in homeless the past few years, a trend that defied the national decline in the overall homeless population, according to federal estimates. The county Los Angeles homeless population rose 15 percent from 2011 to 2013, to 57,737– second only to New York City.

To volunteer for the event, sign up at www.TheyCountWillYou.org.

Homeless Shelter Opens in Pacoima

The Winter Shelter Program officially kicked off Dec. 15 and homeless families now have a clean, comfortable and warm place to sleep in Pacoima.

The Greater Community Church, in collaboration with the organization Hope of the Valley, has opened a night shelter for the homeless and it will be operated during the winter months. Homeless families will also receive supportive services from the volunteer professionals that will be on site.

The facility has an area of about 60-square feet, with a capacity for 100 people. They will also receive nutritious dinner and breakfast, warm beds linens and pillows. The pastor of the Church, Dr. Dudley Chatman, said all this was made possible by volunteers and donations they received.

A team of social workers and volunteers from the Greater Community Church and Esperanza del Valley will be also onsite helping homeless families.

The night shelter at the Greater Community Church will serve until April of 2015 and is located at 11066 Norris Ave., in Pacoima. It is open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. For more information, call (818) 899-9155.

 

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