Orange County organizations will survey homeless population in January

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The Santa Riverbed was evacuated in Feburary.
(Caitlin Bartusick/ Daily Titan)

As part of a partnership with Orange County, City Net is planning a countywide Point-in-Time count in 2019, where hundreds of volunteers will count and survey individuals who are homeless in Orange County.

The 2019 Orange County Point-in-Time will help City Net, a nonprofit organization who works to end street-level homelessness in a city or region, better understand the demographics of people who are homeless. The survey will be conducted on Jan. 23 and 24 and donations will be distributed to those surveyed.

“We want to have an accurate presentation of how many people are experiencing homelessness in Orange County in order for us to lobby for adequate funding to support the needs of those that we run into during that count,” said Chelsea Bowers, director of public affairs for City Net.

Students from Cal State Fullerton and other members of the community are encouraged by Bowers to volunteer their time on those two days.

“It’s very educational and eye-opening to be able to inform Cal State Fullerton students on the realities of homelessness. People who experience homelessness could be their dads, their uncles, their cousins or friends of all different genders and ages,” Bowers said.

Bowers said the reality is, students could have colleagues who may be homeless but prefer not to come forward with it.

In January 2018, 10.9 percent of CSU students reported that they were homeless at least once in the last 12 months (based on the combined definitions of the word from Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education), according to the CSU study of basic needs.

“There are college students who are experiencing homelessness and they deserve to be heard, they deserve to be connected to resources and their peers deserve to be educated on the fact that anyone can be homeless, anyone (can be) one paycheck away from being homeless,” Bowers said.

In 2017, a total of 4,792 homeless individuals were counted in Orange County. Of those, 2,584 were unsheltered, 1,248 were in an emergency shelter and 960 were in a traditional shelter.

The 2017 count and survey showed a significant increase of unsheltered individuals compared to the 1,678 unsheltered individuals in 2013.

The 2019 count will fulfill the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandate that Orange County needs in order to receive the required funding to aid the homeless community. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires an assessment from every continuum of care, Bowers said.

A continuum of care is an integrated system that guides homeless individuals and families through services and housing intended to prevent and end homelessness. Orange County’s continuum of care funds 14 nonprofit organizations.

The Point-in-Time counts provide information that guides how the county approaches ending homelessness and what resources are needed.

This includes funding such as the $23.5 million allocated in 2017 for providing multiple shelter options and the $23.9 million given to increase the number of beds available for people going through a psychiatric crisis, which allows people who are homeless to receive immediate psychiatric care instead of going to the emergency room, according to last year’s Point-in-Time data.

Participating in the 2019 Point-in-Time count and survey is a way to support people impacted by homelessness, Bowers said.

Volunteer roles include team captains, field surveyors, deployment center support, videographers and photographers. Participants may be accompanied by a police escort if the area is deemed unsafe, Bowers said.

Field surveyors will engage directly with Orange County’s homeless community to get a sense of who they are by surveying their demographics, strengths and challenges.

The count and survey will take a few hours each day and the information collected will contribute to the money allocated by Housing and Urban Development to those in need for the following two years, Bowers said.

Bowers said the feedback will aid in offering “different solution-orientated suggestions” that provide the homeless individuals who the organization meets on the street with services in an attempt to reduce the number of people facing this issue.

“If we strengthen the system, they’ll get plugged in more effectively and hopefully exit homelessness,” Bowers said.

Volunteers can sign up online at https://www.everyonecountsoc.org

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