Palisadians Volunteer in Annual Homeless Count
A record 50 Palisadians gathered in the Corpus Christi Church Parish last Wednesday night, January 23, to volunteer in the annual Homeless Count in Pacific Palisades.
The Homeless Count is a nationwide census of the homeless population conducted through local chapters. The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count takes place each year in January and is the largest homeless census in the United States.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies use the data generated in the count to determine funding allocations that provide homeless men, women and children services and housing.
“These funds are a critically important step in achieving the goal of ending homelessness,” Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness Director and Pacific Palisades Homeless Count Site Coordinator Kim Clary said in a recent interview with the Palisadian-Post. “The count helps us know the number of homeless individuals in the Palisades and measure our year-to-year success in providing services that help individuals to move off of the streets and into housing.”
Palisadians packed Corpus Christi on the night of the count to watch a 12-minute training video before hitting the field.
“We started this chapter three years ago, and in three years, we have secured housing for 101 people who were on the streets and are now off the streets,” PPTFH President Doug McCormick told volunteers at the count. “It’s an astounding number, but we’re not done yet.”
In 2015 and 2016, roughly 200 homeless individuals were counted in the Palisades. In 2017 and 2018, that number fell dramatically to 100 individuals.
“We’re hoping you’ll work on this trend to get that number down to 50,” McCormick said. “People ask us why the count is so successful in the Palisades. As this whole task force progresses, what we’ve done is redefine community. It’s no longer ‘us vs them’—we don’t see the homeless as ‘them.’ They’re part of us—they are our homeless residents.”
LAPD West Los Angeles Division Beach Unit Officers Rusty Redican and Jimmy Soliman were also there to help volunteers at the count.
“I’m seeing more new faces coming to this event,” Redican told the Post during the count. “Something like this legitimately reaching out to help these folks with coordinated resources, it really makes a difference, even just counting. Seeing newer faces come into the fold is really gratifying. These folks really need our help and that’s why we’re all here.”
In total, 13 teams of volunteers divvied up the Palisades from Castellammare to The Huntington, taking count and reaching out to individuals in need.
Sharon Kilbride, chair of the PPTFH Law Enforcement Committee, thanked volunteers for their help and shared data from past counts.
“We have 801 new individuals coming through the Palisades and Santa Monica Canyon up to the coastline,” Kilbride said. “We’ve seen an uptick in car-dwellers, with a total of 348 people that we found living in cars.”
On the night of the count, Kilbride went out with volunteer team 5 to survey Will Rogers State Beach. Flashlights stabbed through the dark, scanning the sands swept up in the cold winds.
After a bit of searching, the beam of her flashlight fell on a shape huddled against a nearby lifeguard tower: a man sleeping where he could find shelter.
A few hours in the dark and the cold searching for these individuals served as a sober reminder of the conditions homeless individuals face each day, and of the comforts unavailable to them that we so often take for granted.
More than 20 new volunteers got involved in this year’s count, despite this year’s event having a higher cancellation rate (31 percent) than last year’s. The reason for the higher cancellation rate was likely due to the scheduling of the homeless count this year from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., a departure from years past when the count was scheduled in the early morning.
Despite the decreased visibility and safety concerns, the move to nighttime was necessary to count individuals sleeping in their cars on areas marked for no parking after 10 p.m.
“In the past, due to the difficult terrain, the Palisades has counted in the early morning when there is some light instead of at night as most communities do,” PPTFH Treasurer David Morena told the Post.
“The bluffs and hillsides are more difficult to cover in the dark. However, because of the work of the PPTFH and its outreach team, those difficult-to-access areas have been mostly abandoned by homeless individuals, most of whom are now receiving services and housing.”
The data from the 2019 Homeless Count is given directly to the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority, who publish the results in spring. LASHA totals the number of individuals, tents, encampments and vehicles, and then uses a formula to come up with a total number of individuals only.
Per their data, homeless individuals in the Palisades decreased by 50 percent from 2015 to 2018.
“What we can say about the 2019 count is that, overall, there were fewer homeless individuals, tents and encampments and more people living in vehicles,” Clary added.