By Lookout Staff
December 16, 2013 -- Santa Monica is known for its community involvement, but few gatherings bring out the sense of commitment and communion as does the City’s annual homeless count that will take place next month.
Last January’s count drew more than 250 volunteers who turned out to tally the number of people sleeping on the streets or in their cars during one late night and early morning throughout the upscale beachside city.
Hoping to match those numbers, City officials last week put out the call for volunteers to take part in the Homeless Census that will take place Wednesday, January 29, from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
With the closing of the Civic Auditorium, volunteers will gather at the Grand Pavilion of St. Monica Catholic Church, 725 California Avenue. Among those joining in will be Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, Fire Chief Scott Ferguson and business leaders from the Chamber of Commerce.
“This annual count not only informs our homeless strategy but is a great way to be a part of the solution,” City officials said.
Volunteers will receive training before heading out with their team to cover “every street, alley and park” looking for homeless individuals, according to officials. Security will be provided if needed throughout the night.
Last January, volunteers counted 780 homeless people, a one percent increase from the previous year, but a sharp decrease from the 915 individuals counted in 2008, officials said.
The biggest increases were among individuals sleeping on the streets – 316, up from 264 in 2012 -- and those sleeping in vehicles – 57, up from 45.
Homeless counts are mandated every two years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities that receive federal homeless funds. But Santa Monica has been conducting the census annually since 2010.
The count helps City officials assess how effective the services in the city are in getting people off the streets.
For volunteers like Naomi Wolman, who has participated in the count for the past three years, it’s an eye-opening experience.
“Once you walk in the streets, you understand better what it means to be homeless,” Wolman said. “How dangerous it is. How lonely.”
To volunteer, visit http://www.smgov.net/homelesscountvolunteer.aspx