RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel Friday expressed her thanks to the record number of volunteers who dispersed throughout the county this week to conduct the 2023 Point-In-Time Homeless Count, attempting to record accurately the number of people living on the streets.
“This year, I participated in the count in Lake Elsinore, which is now in (my) Second District,” Spiegel said. “Each year that I’ve participated in the count, I’m struck by the different circumstances that lead to someone becoming homeless, which fuels our wrap-around services for the homeless.”
“Thank you to the many volunteers who gave of their time to get involved on a cold morning to address homelessness,” she said.
The main count was carried out on Wednesday morning, when more than 1,000 volunteers from civic organizations, church groups, colleges, nonprofit organizations and government agencies departed from 39 sites in 28 municipalities to complete the survey.
“This was the largest number of volunteers ever organized to support the annual PIT count,” according to an Executive Office statement.
Participants sought to identify the status of individuals living in cars, under bridges, in transient encampments, homeless shelters and other locations.
A separate census continued Wednesday to Friday, involving roughly 300 volunteers tasked with specifically finding and counting homeless youth.
“This is a critical issue for our county and not just for us working in local government, but all of our neighbors who recognize that it is a humanitarian issue; it’s a quality-of-life issue,” Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions Director Heidi Marshall said. “I think that’s why you see the number of volunteers … so high this year.”
The county Continuum of Care manages the annual outings. The entity is composed of representatives from civic groups, nonprofits and government.
The 2022 homeless census confirmed that 3,316 people were chronically unsheltered, a 15% increase from two years ago. The 2021 homeless census was severely curtailed, with virtually no canvassing of known transient dwelling spaces because of the coronavirus public health lockdowns. Data was based only on shelter interactions and did not provide an accurate representation of the county’s homeless population.
The January 2020 count found thaT 2,284 adults and youths were chronically homeless countywide, about a 3% increase from the prior year.
Data from the latest survey will be processed and published in the next three to four months.
The figures are used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how to distribute federal homeless relief funding, and by policymakers in determining the scope of homelessness nationwide — including what’s working, and what’s not.