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Organizers prepare for County-wide homeless person count

Homeless im SB park
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The 2020 Point-in-Time Count is set for January 29th from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (Ryan Fish/KEYT Photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Agencies across the area are preparing for the 2020 Point-In-Time Count, set to count each homeless person in Santa Barbara County.

Organizers are still looking for about half of the 500 volunteers they believe are necessary to have adequate coverage and an accurate count.

“Volunteer recruitment is really important because we need to cover the entire geographic area of the county,” said Emily Allen, Director for Homeless and Veterans Impact Initiatives at United Way Home for Good Santa Barbara County. “We use census-track maps and send teams of volunteers out. And when we have more volunteers, we can make sure that we can have large teams and really cover that area well.”

Those teams of volunteers will be led by outreach workers or by someone who is trained and has gone through homelessness themselves.

“We call those [team leaders] our “guides” because they often know of spots that we may not know of to go and check,” said Kimberlee Albers, Homeless Assistance Program Manager for the County.

Organizers say the count is a way for people to learn more about the homelessness crisis at large and in their own neighborhoods.

“Really a good chance to go out there first hand, see what the problem is,” said Ashley Laper, an Americorps Vista at United Way Home for Good Santa Barbara County. “Collect that data, because with that data we can further our research. Further our planning for services specific to their needs.”

The Count is also crucial because it decides how much federal and state funding comes in.

“We’re seeing that the state, some of the new funding coming in to address homelessness in the community is now completely reliant on that Point in Time Count number,” Albers said. “So we’re awarded the funding based on our percentage of the homeless population here in California.”

Starting this year, the Point-in-Time Count now tracks the County’s unsheltered homeless population every year. Previously, that happened only every two years, while the sheltered homeless population was tallied each year.

According to the Count’s 2017 and 2019 numbers, the County’s overall homeless population stayed relatively flat at about 1,800 people. The unsheltered homeless population, however, rose from 893 people to 1,133 people.

Volunteer trainings are happening throughout the County starting this weekend. The count itself is set for Jan. 29th from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

“We do do that early morning because that’s the best time that we can really count those who are living on the streets,” Albers said.

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homeless count
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Ryan Fish

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