L.A. Homeless Count to Resume After COVID-Related Hiatus

The 2021 count was cancelled due to the rise of Delta and Omicron variants

This year’s “point-in-time” homeless count will begin Tuesday and take place for the following three days. Thousands of volunteers will be designated across Los Angeles County in order to collect data regarding this year’s annual count of the region’s homeless population.

Last year’s event was canceled by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) following a rise in the prominence of COVID due to the Delta and Omicron variants.

This count is one to be noted for the county, as it is taking place during an election year where homelessness and housing have been rising topics, and it also marks the first time volunteers will be conducting the count electronically.

LAHSA is currently contracted with Akido Labs, a healthcare data management firm that the county previously worked with during April 2020, to develop an app that volunteers can use to log information while retaining social distancing.

Prashant Samant, Akido Labs co-founder and Chief Executive, told the Los Angeles Times that the app’s contribution would help them to “understand people experiencing homelessness better — who they are, why they’re homeless, and what health issues they have” and allow them to “create more effective strategies quicker.”

The impact of the pandemic has caused a lot of speculation regarding its effect on the homeless population, but no one will have any idea of specifics until the count is released in May or June, LAHSA officials say.

“It’s the first count done after the COVID-19 pandemic began, which we’ve worked to keep people experiencing homelessness safe through but whose effects we need to assess across the region,” Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA, said in a statement. “It’s more important now than ever before for us to understand what homelessness looks like across Los Angeles so we can deploy resources as effectively as possible moving forward.”

The count conducted in 2020—also the last recorded count—reported an increase of 13 percent of people experiencing homelessness in the county at 66,436 counted individuals.

Volunteers this year will start by going out to the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys to count tents, makeshift dwellings, and vehicles determined as occupied—though it is not their responsibility to determine how many people are within each.

Further dates include a count on Wednesday in West Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, and the South Bay. Thursday’s count will take place in the Antelope Valley, Metro Los Angeles, and South Los Angeles.

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