Homeless in Fullerton
Homeless in Fullerton
Josue Rivas

Here's Why You Should Volunteer in Orange County's "Point-in-Time" Homeless Count 2017

The homeless population in Orange County rose 5% over the last two years, according to the county's biannual "Point-In-Time" (PIT) homeless count taken on January 24th, 2015—which found that on any given night in OC, 4,452 people are homeless.

The PIT count collects the number of unsheltered and literally "homeless" people (those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, such as public spaces, cars, tents, etc) at a specific "point in time" in OC. The "point-in-time" for this year's count is Saturday, January 28th from 4:30a.m.-9:30a.m. and volunteers across the county are currently being sought. Last year, 800 volunteers showed up to count OC's homeless. This year, 2-1-1-OC and the Health Care Agency, the organizations behind the count, are hoping to enroll 1,500 volunteers to cover more ground and yield greater accuracy which in turn gets the county additional federal funding from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

An accurate count is important for the county to continue to receive funding from HUD, (last year HUD gave Orange County about $17.5 million in federal homeless aid.) The PIT count info is also used by elected officials, non-profits and private funders to guide the provision of services for the homeless.

Since OC Board of Supervisors show no interest in allocating the County's annual discretionary funds (up $78 million since 2010) towards ending the homeless crisis in OC, the monetary aid given to the County by the HUD based on the "PIT" count is OC's main source of funding to help the homeless. Since 2010, OC Board of Supervisors actually reduced discretionary funds for social and health services by $33 million and instead added $20 million in discretionary funding to the shady sheriff's department (the same sheriff's department currently under investigation by the feds.)

The methodology behind the count divides the county into map areas with "hot spots" and "warm spots" that are pre-determined by local police, city officials and organizers to have a threshold number of homeless people. Count teams cover all of the "hot" spots and only some of the "warm" spots— the number in warm spots is weighted to estimate a total number of homeless people who would've likely been found in other warm areas that were not counted. The more warm areas that are counted the higher the chances of accuracy will be in the estimate.

Homeless in the Santa Ana River
Homeless in the Santa Ana River
Shane Lopes

In 2015, rainy weather was thought to have affected the accuracy of the PIT count due to the homeless taking shelter inside abandoned buildings, commercial buildings or terrain not coverable by foot. For this reason, the PIT count acknowledges that it tends to "under count [sic] homeless people because it is not possible to locate and count everyone." Fingers crossed for clear skies for this year's count...

For more information on the Point-in-Time count and to register to volunteer visit www.pointintimeoc.org

Side note: As a thank you for participating in the survey, homeless individuals are given care packages with basic essentials and hygiene items. To donate items such as beanies, toothbrushes, soap, rain ponchos, etc visit a "Point-in-Time Collection Drive" in Santa Ana or Mission Viejo throughout the month of January.


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