(#49) Homeless Count (January 29, 2015)

April 9, 2015

Hmmm. It’s April, and this project ended in February. Think it’s about time I catch up on these events, or what? 🙂

The homeless count is conducted to try to get a sense of the number of homeless people living in our city, so the government can have a sense of how much money to allocate to various areas.

My understanding is that the LA count takes place over a few different days. (LA’s quite large.) Judging by this article, it sounds like our count sounds may be a little different from counts in other cities. (Or maybe it’s the same and I just don’t have a full overview of the program since I participated in one area on one night.

For out count, we were instructed not to try to engage any homeless people. We were given pamphlets that had information on some programs, and we were told if anyone asks us about what we’re doing, or asks for help, we give a pamphlet.

It sounds like some other cities conduct surveys, seeking out homeless people and asking them questions (and possibly trying to get them services right there?). Again, maybe a different group in our city does that to. But on our night, in our area, we didn’t.

Basically, we all started by meeting up in a conference room downtown. There was a short presentation on what the night would be like, and what we should be counting. (There were spots on the form to count vans people lived in, tents, etc… And of course, there were spots for people themselves.)

We went around the room and introduced ourselves. Then we split into groups of 2 – 4 who each took a different area of the city. Most of the areas available were in downtown, but there were some to which you’d have to drive.

Get this! This was possibly one of the coolest things I’ve experienced since I’ve been in LA. When some of the leaders of this activity asked who was available to drive, you could hear rumblings around the room of nearly everyone saying, “I don’t have a car” or “I didn’t bring a car.”

It was glorious! It seems so many people out here use cars to drive 3 blocks. But downtown, ah downtown has the people with the metropolis mindset. Mmmm

I was paired with a lawyer, a former bodyman for a now-disgraced politician, and the guy who started Peddler’s Creamery (a super cool ice cream place downtown). What a group, huh?

We traversed every corner of our area – including going through all these alleys I never even noticed. (And our blocks were right by apartment! How did I not notice any of these alleys before?)

It rained a little, but not enough to be bothersome.

Some homeless people were on bikes. So, I don’t know if some maybe got counted twice (if they biked to another area and another group saw them) or maybe not at all (if they never happened to bike in the same place people were counting).

There are criticizers of the method of the homeless count. But we did the best we could, and hopefully the count was accurate enough to get the necessary funding to continue working on this problem.

The woman who ran the event was a total hoot! She was practically doing stand-up comedy as we were waiting to be assigned into groups. So, seeing her at the end to give her our tally sheet was a welcome bow on the evening.

Even though it was generally sad to go around counting homeless people, a lot of them were actually laughing and talking to other people. Seeing that happiness was nice. And spending a few hours getting to walk around (in the sweet, sweet darkness without the crazy sun all up on my business) with a totally interesting group was quite lovely.

I’d call it a pretty grand night.

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