Last night dozens of volunteers from the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council and the Mid City West Neighborhood Council gathered at two local locations to count the homeless in our collective neighborhoods. We stopped by the Hope Lutheran Church on Melrose Avenue, where GWNC deployment site coordinator Max Kirkham was checking in volunteers along with several colleagues from the board of the neighborhood council.
Kirkham, a veteran of five Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) counts (this is his fourth serving as site coordinator), told us he was expecting 32 volunteers to cover the 22 census tracts in the area. Half the tracts would be covered by volunteers driving in cars and the other half would be volunteers walking. Either way, the volunteers were never alone, usually worked in pairs or sometimes larger groups, and were given training materials explaining how to count visually only and not engage with anyone, since it was nighttime and many people would be sleeping.
Meanwhile, the Mid City West Neighborhood Council team was headquartered at CBS Television City where organizers expected 100 volunteers to check in and count their 32 census tracts. Site coordinator Lynda La Rose told us that she and her volunteers have been working for several months to plan the logistics for the evening’s count, building on their pioneering efforts last year to organize their own count when the city’s effort was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Concerned about the state of homelessness in their community and the impacts of the pandemic on the unhoused population, Mid City West Neighborhood Council members last year partnered with other neighborhood councils and local nonprofits including the Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition and Hollywood 4WRD. The coalition followed LAHSA methodology regarding data collection and analysis from prior years, updated for the current situation. MCWNC also updated its volunteer protocols and practices to ensure the safety of all participants.
“MCWNC created a new model for conducting the Count during the pandemic including: conducted trainings online, and hosting the event outdoors with a drive-thru models for volunteers,” La Rose explained in a statement provided to the Buzz. “It is clear that the grassroots Homeless Count that was hosted by MCWNC and other community based organizations in 2021 became a model for how LAHSA is rolling out the 2022 Count.”
This year, volunteers were also given hygiene kits put together by the Saban Clinic Community to offer to unhoused individuals they might meet during the daytime. The kits contain socks, underwear, water, snacks and other items and are printed with the locations of the free clinics and free showers.
Despite the cold weather and the challenges presented by COVID, the count of unhoused people in our neighborhoods took place on schedule thanks to the efforts of dozens of volunteers and the leadership of our two local neighborhood councils. Results of the count should be released this summer.
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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