THE BLOG
12/11/2012 11:13 am ET Updated Feb 10, 2013

Calling 5,000 People to Volunteer in Los Angeles

It's time to volunteer, get trained and help count homeless people!

The 2013 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, directed by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), consists of counting homeless people within the City and County of Los Angeles, excluding Long Beach, Pasadena and Glendale that conduct their own counts. In order to accomplish the nation's largest local census count of homeless people in scale and scope, LAHSA needs 5,000 volunteers. So LAHSA needs you NOW!

Since 1994, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been soliciting funding applications from communities across the United States through the continuum of care process (CoC). A CoC, a group of service providers with a lead agency within a certain geographical area, serves two purposes:

  • To develop a long-term strategic plan and manage a year-round planning effort that addresses the identified needs of homeless individuals and households; the availability and accessibility of existing housing and services; and the opportunities for linkages with mainstream housing and services resources...
  • To prepare an application for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento) competitive grants.

-- Continuum of Care 101, HUD's Homeless Assistance Programs, June, 2009, p. 3.

The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (HEARTH) has codified the CoC planning process "as a required and integral local function necessary to generate the local strategies for ending homelessness."

HUD mandates that CoCs conduct a biennial point in time (PIT) count of homeless people during the last 10 days of January. Thus, LAHSA, the lead agency for the Los Angeles CoC, is charged with conducting this count.

The importance of the count cannot be overstated. In its 2012 FAQ Sheet, LAHSA sets forth the purpose of the count and why you should volunteer:

You can make an important impact in the lives of homeless men, women and children by volunteering for the Homeless Count 2013. Your contribution goes well beyond your donated time. By knowing who and where homeless people are in Los Angeles County, government agencies and housing and service providers are better able to plan and identify resources to provide vital services to the homeless and ultimately move families and individuals into housing.

By visiting www.TheyCountWillYou.org, you can choose to serve in Los Angeles just once or multiple times in the following capacities:

• Counters, January 29-31, 8 p.m.-12 a.m.
• Trainers, January 29-31, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
• Deployment Site Coordinators, January 29-31, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.
• Transporting Materials, January 27-February 1, varying times
• Office Volunteers, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., varying hours per day/week

Most needed are counters. If you are over the age of 18, you can volunteer individually or in teams for the count by registering at www.TheyCountWillYou.org.

The count takes place over three nights and one morning as follows:

• Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 8 p.m.-12 midnight, in the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles
• Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 8 p.m.-12 midnight, in West Los Angeles and South Bay
• Thursday, January 31, 2013, 6 a.m.-12 noon, in the Antelope Valley
• Thursday, January 31, 2013, 8 p.m.-12 midnight, in the San Fernando Valley/Santa Clarita Valley, Metro Los Angeles and South Los Angeles

As indicated at www.TheyCountWillYou.org, if you sign up as a counter you can choose from a number of deployment centers where you will be fully trained and return after counting. You will receive a tract map of the specific area in which you will count and a tally sheet upon which to indicate the homeless people that you see. Light refreshments will be served at the deployment centers.

When you register at www.TheyCountWillYou.org, you will create a user name and password, and indicate whether you are part of an existing team or wish to create your own team.

Once registered, you may later modify or add to your choices by going back to www.TheyCountWillYou.org, entering your user name and password and then making any changes.

LAHSA is currently developing special incentives to encourage volunteers. For example, LAHSA is offering an organization from which 10 or more people volunteer the opportunity to have its logo posted on the Count's website. Please visit www.TheyCountWillYou.org for additional incentives as they become available.

In addition to the incentives offered by LAHSA, I believe as a volunteer, you will experience personal satisfaction knowing that by volunteering in the count you are helping homeless people who will receive services through the programs that rely upon the results of the count for funding. I further believe this satisfaction is the result of the exercise of our inner quality of compassion that expands every time we help a person in need.

To find out more about LAHSA, please visit www.LAHSA.org.

If you don't live in Los Angeles, you can still volunteer for the count. Also, there may be a volunteer opportunity available in a count happening near you. While HUD mandates that the count takes place on a biennial basis, some areas, like San Diego, conduct their counts on an annual basis.

I believe in the importance of the count so much that I moved to Los Angeles to become one of LAHSA's three volunteer coordinators for the count.

Please get involved. Let's all count and do our part to end homelessness by helping to assure that homeless people get the services they need.

I look forward to your comments. Thank you.

Christine