Volunteers Needed to Join Countywide Effort to Tally Number of Homeless

City News Service

(CNS) – Members of faith-based groups, churches, civic affairs organizations, college students and many others are needed for Riverside County’s 2022 point-in-time homeless count, and officials Wednesday asked all those interested in taking part in the effort next month to sign up.

“This count is vital for Riverside County to ensure we are heading in the right direction towards reducing homelessness,” Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Spiegel said. “The information we collect allows us to make informed decisions about where our resources should be targeted.”

The county would like to have more than 700 volunteers available to find and verify the status of individuals who may be living in cars, under bridges, in transient encampments, homeless shelters and other locations throughout the county.

“We are excited to start recruiting and training volunteers for the 2022 count,” Department of Public Social Services spokeswoman Laura Gonzalez Rivera said. “The safety and well-being of our volunteers and staff is a priority, so we are working with the Riverside County Department of Public Health and will be following safety measures to resume the count in full scale.”

The 2021 homeless census was severely curtailed, with virtually no canvassing of known transient dwelling spaces, because of the coronavirus public health lockdowns. Data were based only on shelter interactions and did not provide an accurate representation of the county’s homeless population.

The January 2020 count revealed that nearly 3,000 adults and youths were chronically homeless countywide, about a 3% increase from the prior year.

No prior experience with the point-in-time count is necessary to volunteer. The canvass is slated to take place Jan. 26-28.

Some training is required, and although youths as young as 16 years old can participate, all minors will have to be accompanied by an adult, according to county officials.

Volunteers must also have a smart phone or tablet to conduct the survey and be able to walk up to two hours.

“This truly is a community effort,” Rivera said. “During the count, we will also aim to help homeless individuals by providing direct linkages to services and referrals to beds available at shelters.”

The data are used by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials to determine how to distribute federal homeless relief funding, and by policy makers in determining the scope of homelessness nationwide — including which approaches and programs are working, and which ones aren’t.

All those interested in participating were encouraged to register at https://rivcopitc2022-countyofriverside.hub.arcgis.com/, or https://rivcopitc2022-countyofriverside.hub.arcgis.com/pages/youthcount.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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