Over 70 people spread across Culver City last Wednesday night, Jan. 22, 2020, to begin an hours-long homeless count, joining thousands others across Los Angeles, that lasted well into the early hours of the morning.
Those wanting to help the city’s efforts convened at the Senior Center to join the annual Los Angeles count. Thirteen groups of four to five people were deployed to sections of Culver City – based on census data – and drove up and down streets to identify those without homes.
“It really gives us info, and it helps determine where to place our resources,” said Kim Gibson, Vice Chair for the Committee on Homelessness.
The count was part of a greater three day count happening across Los Angeles County, led by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that city homeless counts be taken every other year, but Los Angeles made it an annual tradition in 2016 to better observe trends in those experiencing homelessness.
Last year’s numbers in Culver City, as reported by Gibson at a recent City Council meeting, saw a 12 percent increase from the year before, with 234 community members without homes. They counted one family living in a car.
“Visibly, looking around Culver City, looking around L.A., I would say yes,” Gibson said when asked if she thinks the numbers could rise again.
In a training video from LAHSA, someone experiencing homelessness may be wearing multiple layers of clothing, carrying a large backpack, or have disheveled hair. Trainees were instructed not to approach anyone on the street.
Culver City’s count brought out the city’s leadership, including Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, who opened the training.
“It’s hard to be mayor at this moment because of the enormity of the problem, and the sense of failure,” she said. She continued, “We certainly haven’t built enough houses.”
Other members of the council attended, including Vice Mayor Göran Eriksson and Council members Alex Fisch and Thomas Small.
Sara Fields, a resident of Culver City for over 40 years, attended the count. As a member of Temple Akiba’s Forum on Housing and Homelessness, she says the group has “learned about the scope of the problem, now we’re trying to take some action.”
“People become homeless for very different reasons,” she said. “Everyone has a different story.”
The homeless count comes in the midst of a housing crisis affecting millions across the country. The Southern California Association of Governments, on which Mayor Sahli-Wells serves as a representative, recently determined the number of housing units cities across the county will have to add to keep the cost of living affordable. Culver City needs to add 3,500 units of housing.
Back at the count, Gibson was happy with the turnout.
“People care,” she said. “To get this many people on a week night in January, you can tell people feel really good to be here.”
The volunteers turned in their data, which will be released by the city at a future date.
Photo credit- Elizabeth Moss
Volunteers are given assignment at the homeless count.