REGION — Teams of volunteers will take to the streets in the early morning hours of Jan. 26 for the annual homeless count that tallies people living in transitional shelters and cars or unsheltered.
In Oceanside the count will begin at 4 a.m. Police Homeless Outreach Team officers will help spearhead efforts and go into encampment areas they serve. City housing and code enforcement staff will lead volunteer efforts.
Volunteer counters will be given flashlights and mapped streets to survey by car and foot. They will record the number of homeless individuals sleeping in makeshift housing and hunkered down without shelter. Efforts take about 90 volunteers.
As a second component of the count an additional group of volunteers will interview willing homeless individuals at Brother Benno’s Center on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30. Interview questions provide details on the makeup and challenges of city homeless.
WeAllCount efforts throughout the county provide cities and service agencies a yearly update on the problem of homelessness.
“It enables the region to better understand the scope, impact and potential solutions to homelessness,” Oceanside city staff said.
The count is mandated for agencies that receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds.
San Diego County received $18 million in federal funding for needed housing and services last year. Funds are overseen and allocated by the county Regional Taskforce on the Homeless.
Efforts funded in 2017 included Vietnam Veterans of San Diego Escondido Veterans Apartments and the city of Oceanside Women’s Resource Center Transitional Housing.
Greg Angela, president of Alliance for Regional Solutions, which serves as an umbrella agency for North County efforts to end homelessness, said the annual count is essential.
“It helps establish a baseline and measurement from year to year to the amount of people who are on the street and experiencing homelessness,” Angela said. “It is important to check in to see where we are as a community in facing this very difficult issue.”
A North County focus is to provide housing first services to stabilize homeless individuals and families and increase their success in securing permanent housing.
Transitional housing is provided to more than 1,000 homeless individuals in North County. Angela said more than half of those housed move out of shelters and into permanent housing.
This is the fifth year Oceanside has participated in the regional homeless count.
Angie Hanifin, Oceanside acting housing administrator, said the annual count provides important information on the number of homeless and their locations.
“In order to make a difference in the lives of our homeless residents, we need to know the size and scope of homelessness throughout San Diego County,” Hanifin said. “The data gathered from the count allows us to assess how and where homeless persons can best be served.”
Hanifin said information collected also helps demonstrate the need for specific types of federal housing funds, such as vouchers for homeless veterans.
Last year the countywide count recorded 9,116 homeless individuals living on the streets or in shelters. The number of county homeless increased 5 percent from the previous year.
Results from this year’s count are expected to be published by the Regional Taskforce on the Homeless in the spring.
Interested volunteers can register to help with WeAllCount efforts at https://rtfh.volunteerhub.com/events/index.