Everyone Counts, including Orange County’s homeless residents

In News
preliminary results for the first shift of OC homeless count
(Kaitlin Martinez / Daily Titan)

Last week, Orange County surveyed its homeless population during the Point-in-Time Count, which seeks to gain a community-wide census of homeless residents to secure federal funding for food, transportation and housing needs.

211 Orange County, a local nonprofit, counted people who were in shelters last Tuesday, said Susan Price, the director of care coordination for County of Orange CEO’s Office.

They collaborated with City Net for the Point-in-Time Count in an effort to help Orange County qualify for over $19 million in federal funding to fight homelessness.

City Net is a nonprofit organization that works with cities and larger communities to end unsheltered homelessness by facilitating community activities and goals like the count.

City Net volunteers counted people who were unsheltered in Orange County that night. The county was divided into three regions, North, Central and South, to more efficiently allocate resources and volunteer efforts.

City Net members and volunteers provided information on nearby homeless shelters, as well as passing out toiletries and prepaid bus passes to the homeless while they took the survey during the count.

Volunteer Carolyn McMorrow said the count was different than what she expected.

“There were a couple people who did not want to do the survey, but I was pretty amazed at the openness and thoughtfulness of their answers and their gratitude when they got the hygiene pack and the bus tickets,” McMorrow said, recalling that one participant kissed his bus ticket.

Price said she believes that this year’s census will give a new perspective to the homeless count through the use of a GIS map, which will show the areas where there are homeless people.

A GIS map, or a Geographic Information System map, is designed to manage and analyze geographic data, according to the University of Wisconsin.

“This is the first time in the county of Orange that we’re going to have this type of data, and I find it very very beneficial going forward. It’s a great time to be getting this level of detail,” Price  said.

The new GIS maps will allow new, computerized layouts for homeless population clusters around Orange County. Ninety-five teams of volunteers spent two months leading up to the count, mapping out homeless hotspots in several cities in Orange County.

Areas where homeless people were seen frequently were marked on the 260 maps developed for the census. Large spots meant that it was a high-traffic area. Medium-size spots meant medium traffic, and small spots indicated that there was low traffic for the area.

During the 2017 count, there were 4,792 sheltered and unsheltered residents of Orange County, with 936 individuals in North Orange County.

While there is a significant difference between the results of this year and 2017’s Point-in-Time Count, Price said that the results are not comparable because this count used a completely different methodology from the previous three counts.

Michael B., a veteran who participated in the survey, said authorities could do more to support the homeless population.

I think there’s more that could be done. I mean, they’re doing a good job, but I think they could do more,” Michael B. said.

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