Homeless Count 2019
About Homeless Count 2019:
Each year across the United States, regional and local municipalities conduct an annual “point in time” (PIT) count of the number of people who are experiencing homelessness. These counts, which are conducted by entities known as continuums of care (CoC) that coordinate housing and services funding for homeless populations, are required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and are used to determine the allocation of resources. The counts provide separate estimates of people who use shelters and those who do not use shelters (i.e. unsheltered) and who are typically found living on the streets or in cars, vans, RVs, tents, and makeshift shelters. While it is relatively straightforward to estimate the sheltered population because people typically must sign-in or register in order to access shelters, accurate estimates of the unsheltered population are more challenging.
Los Angeles County (LAC) has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the United States. In 2018, it was estimated that three out of four people experiencing homelessness - nearly 40,000 people – were unsheltered in LAC. This compares to New York City that has the largest overall homeless population but is almost entirely (over 90%) sheltered. In order to address the inherent challenge of estimating the size and characteristics of a large unsheltered population, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) uses a method that includes a full enumeration of the number of individuals, families, and makeshift shelters (e.g. cars, tents, etc.) observed on the streets in each census tract (CT) that is included in the LAC continuum of care as well as a face-to-face survey that is conducted with approximately 5,000 unsheltered individuals from across LAC. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social work has deployed teams of trained individuals to conduct these surveys over the past 3 years – many of whom are MSW students.
Below are some reflections from USC MSW students who participated in the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count Survey Team.