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Keeping track of the homeless Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Feb 05 2011 12:00 PM

A grandmother who lives in southwest Chula Vista has prime property on the bayfront. But without her medication she sometimes suffers from psychotic episodes. She lives in a handmade structure and has serious emotional problems.

This woman is homeless. She has nowhere to go. But she was counted.

On Jan. 28, about 550 volunteers woke up before dawn to search the streets of San Diego and tally the homeless, or any signs of them. After being briefed and loading up on snacks, each team of two or three individuals set out before 5 a.m. to cover their census tract area.

The count focused on the unsheltered homeless, which includes individuals, families, full shopping carts and lived-in cars and structures.

The annual point-in-time count is coordinated by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless to provide a better understanding of homelessness and ultimately provide services to help end its prevalence. The information generates funding, services, results and awareness of the problem.

During the count for the South Bay, more than 20 volunteers, mostly from South Bay Community Services, drove through residential streets, back alleys, behind shopping centers and under overpasses. Volunteers were asked to mark areas of homelessness on a census map by using a key: a circle for an individual homeless person, an X for hand-built structures and a triangle for parked vehicles.

Last year volunteers counted 212 unsheltered homeless in the city of Chula Vista. In the South Bay alone, the homeless population equaled 9.6 percent of more than 8,500 in San Diego County.

In National City, the count totaled 281 unsheltered homeless, many of whom were located in alleys by Eighth and 16th streets, Interstate 5 and the 805 freeway and at the north end of Hoover Avenue.

In the two weeks following the count, surveyors revisit marked areas of homelessness to do interviews and gather demographic information.

Results from each year's count are reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

National City teachers on verge of walking out

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