LA Mayor’s Office

LA Mayor Eric Garrett, right, speaks with a Los Angeles Family Housing outreach worker in Van Nuys during the 2018 counting of homeless persons in the San Fernando Valley.

The three-day 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count began Tuesday, Jan. 23, as thousands of volunteers canvased the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys in an effort to get an accurate picture of the homeless situation.

In Sylmar, 15 teams comprised of at least a driver, navigator and counter went through the Northeast Valley community for nearly three hours documenting and counting each homeless individual they saw.

“I can’t give you any [final] numbers. But each team saw and counted at least one person,” said Christian Rubalcava, resident and member of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council, adding there were at least 50 volunteers from the council who participated.

Rubalcava had planned to be among the counters, but gave up his spot when more volunteers than expected showed up and wanted to participate. Among them were Manny Gonez, husband of Los Angeles Unified School District Board member Kelly Gonez, and staffers for LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez.

He said he heard a variety of reactions from the Sylmar volunteers after they had finished their count, ranging from ‘I feel really bad there are so many out there’ to others saying ‘it’s getting worse, they looked dirty.’ It tells me the problem is not going away.”

Rubalcava added that Tuesday would be the only day there would be a count in Sylmar.

Thousands of volunteers canvassed the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys in an effort to get an accurate picture of the homeless situation.

Three members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors — Kathryn Barger, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis — were among the volunteers on Tuesday.

Ridley-Thomas participated in the count in the San Fernando Valley “because every night thousands of men, women, and families, with nowhere else to go, are sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles County. I count because each of us has a moral responsibility to help those in need.”

For the last 12 years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has utilized volunteers over 18 years of age who spend between three and four hours recording the number of transients to help determine the amount of federal and county funds needed for homeless programs.

About 7,500 volunteers participated in last year’s count, which found that homelessness in Los Angeles County increased 23 percent to 57,794.

The counting continued Wednesday, Jan. 24, in the South Bay and eastern and western portions of the county.

More was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25,  in the Antelope Valley, metropolitan Los Angeles and southern Los Angeles County.