Homeless count coming

On Jan. 23, approximately 1,500 volunteers and outreach workers will deploy from 30 neighborhood sites to construct a point-in-time count of homeless people currently living in San Diego County.

The San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless will be constructing the annual count, known as We All Count, by directly engaging homeless individuals in real time.
The count is unfunded yet federally mandated and is used as a factor in determining program funding.

SDRTF Director of Operations Kat Durant says the county is required to submit their findings to the Department of Housing and Urban Development every two years, however program leaders from San Diego collect data on an annual basis because the county has a relatively high homeless population.

The count has been completed since 2009, providing more than a decade of statistical information and meaningful information that can be isolated for different factors. Although the total count can be used for comparison sake with other parts of the country, the data can also be broken down into county versus city statistics, as well as provide a snapshot of the homeless population in different regions of the county and other subsets of information.

“The system works well and the word really gets out there… Last year we changed the survey approach to be more of an engaged count,” Durant said.

Updated methodology includes counting all individuals who have spent the night in conditions considered unsheltered, such as park benches, sidewalks, tents and vehicles. SDRTF also surveys the sheltered homeless population by collaborating with community partners and outside agencies.

“The exciting part of this year is that it is the first time we’re using a mobile app. Not only does it cut down on paper and eliminate having to get all the information out to different deployment sites but it is also a better way to collect data,” Durant said.

Durant says they partner with outreach workers well in advance of the count so they can plan ahead to provide packets of resource information for discovered homeless individuals in addition to collecting data. Additionally, SDRTF plans to create a by-name list to more accurately identify people who are experiencing homelessness and better provide long-term resources to those individuals.

In addition to resource information, each packet given to surveyed individuals this year will include new, clean socks donated by Bombas, which the National Coalition for the Homeless ranks as the number-one most requested items by homeless people.

“They sent us thousands. Apparently when you see the buy one/donate one tag it really does happen,” Durant said.

SDRTF is also including a gift card to Starbucks or McDonalds with each packet of resource information. The cards were purchased with funds supplied by independent donations that topped $40,000 this year.