Teams of volunteers fanned out across Pasadena Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning for the 2020 Pasadena Homeless count.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) coordinates the count among the 88 cities in L.A. County, as numerous cities across the nation do the same.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires an annual count of people experiencing homelessness.
This year, thousands of volunteers will spread out across more than 4,000 square miles to count LA County’s unsheltered homeless population from January 21-23.
In Pasadena, 17 teams of four to six volunteers each walked separate “zones” armed with a homeless survey phone app to feed live, updated information to City and County officials.
According to Jhoana Hirasuna, director of social services for the Salvation Army Pasadena Tabernacle Corps, the count reveals details about the homeless population, such as whether the homeless persons are veterans, seniors, have mental health issues, or other physical ailments.
“This allows us to better understand those who are experiencing homelessness, and then be able to provide adequate services for them,” said Hirasuna.
Last year’s count indicated that the number of people experiencing homelessness across LA County the rose to 59,000. Of that, 27,000 were unsheltered.
Despite the increase, the homeless services system helped more in Los Angeles County than ever before, according to LAHSA.
More than 75,000 people received services, including prevention, outreach, shelters, and permanent supportive housing and 31,000 completed all the steps to access housing—but could not find a space to move into.
Pasadena saw a drop in homeless numbers in the 2018-2019 count—with 542 living on the street, 135 less than the previous year, for a 31% decrease—but Hirasuna is less confident that those numbers will hold this year.
“Of course, we’re always hopeful that there will be a decrease,” she said, preparing to head out for the count. “I’ve heard some chat that that might not be the case this year. But we’re always hoping that there are less people out there experiencing homelessness.”
Hirasuna and her volunteer team—Albert Wanduhl, Katie Clark, and Jouslynn Griffin—set out from the Salvation Army office on Walnut Street Tuesday morning and saw evidence of the homeless issue immediately.
A homeless person was sleeping in the office building’s walkway.
Hirasuna gently woke the woman, who agreed to answer the questions, while still wrapped in her sleeping bag.
The early morning surveys are conducted at approximately the time when most homeless are forced to awaken, abandoning doorways and bus benches, as the day begins and businesses open.
The homeless are asked about their history on the streets, the length of time they’ve been homeless, and about their family situations, if any. Questions about physical and mental health are also posed, along with questions about sexual identity and possible abuse.
Survey participants are also given a hygiene kit.
While most homeless are cooperative and readily answer questions, said Hirasuna, those who refuse aren’t pushed, and an “observation” is simply made, detailing the location and condition of the homeless person, race and gender, and whether or not there are children present.
The result of Pasadena’s homeless count will be released in late spring.