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Palm Desert Homeless Count To Begin; Volunteers Needed

“The more volunteers we have, the more likely we are to thoroughly identify who is homeless ... " officials say.

Volunteers throughout Riverside County are needed to assist with a survey of homeless residents that will help determine the need for services and guide decisions about how to use available resources, officials reported Wednesday.

The County of Riverside Department of Public Social Services will host volunteer orientation meetings this month in Riverside, Indio, San Jacinto and Lake Elsinore for those interested in participating in the 2013 Biennial Point-in-Time (PIT) Homeless Count and Survey.  The countywide count will be done between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Jan. 23.

The survey is a one-day, street-based and shelter-based effort to identify how many people in the county are homeless on a given day, according to a statement released by the county.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the largest source of homeless program funding, requires continuum of care communities that receive HUD funding, including Riverside County, to perform a count and a survey of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals during the last week of January. Results of the 2013 count and survey will provide benchmark numbers. Those numbers establish a basis for developing local community and countywide strategies to help alleviate homelessness and measure the effectiveness of programs currently serving homeless individuals and families,” Wednesday’s statement read.

Susan Loew, director of the County of Riverside Department of Public Social Services, emphasized community volunteers’ important role in reaching as many homeless people as possible during the count.

“The more volunteers we have, the more likely we are to thoroughly identify who is homeless in our county,” she said.

Loew added that the count, done once every two years, is reported by the county to HUD, which uses the information to determine funding levels and other resources for the county.

During Riverside County’s last point-in-time count and survey in 2011, volunteers, homeless advocates and providers found the following numbers:

  • 4,321 people were counted countywide. 
  • This included 3,208 people found living in abandoned buildings, on the street, at freeway over/underpasses, in cars, RVs, encampments and other areas. 
  • Another 1,113 were living in shelters. 
  • The total number was a 28 percent increase from the previous count in 2009, during which 3,366 homeless people were counted countywide.

In Palm Desert, the 2011 figures revealed a total of 10 people living on the streets, in abandoned buildings, beneath freeway overpasses and in transient camps.  There were another 62 homeless living in shelters, making for a total of 72 homeless in the city during the 2011 count.   That figure compared to 38 people living under similar circumstances in 2009, DPSS officials said.

Other Valley cities had the following homeless counts in 2011:

  • Rancho Mirage: 14
  • Indian Wells: 0
  • La Quinta: 3
  • Indio: 605 (340 of them in a shelter)
  • Desert Hot Springs: 22
  • Cathedral City: 14
  • Coachella: 89
  • Palm Springs: 151 (89 of them in a shelter)
  • Thousand Palms: 7 (all living in a shelter)

People interested in volunteering for the 2013 homeless counts can find more information and register for one of the four 90-minute orientation meetings at: http://www.riversidehomelesscounts.com

At the orientation, volunteers will learn how to conduct a brief survey of every person they count, what to do if a person is uncooperative and learn other safety and logistical information. Volunteers will be paired in teams and given maps of areas they will be assigned to for the count. 

The orientation meeting schedule is:

  • Riverside: Monday, Jan. 7 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, 3504 Mission Inn Ave.
  • Indio: Tuesday, Jan. 8 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., ABC Recovery Center, 44-359 Palm Street.
  • San Jacinto:  Monday, Jan. 14 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., San Jacinto Community Center, 625 S. Pico Ave.
  • Lake Elsinore: Monday, Jan. 21 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Ortega High School Conference Center, 520 Chaney St.

Prospective volunteers also may contact Elizabeth Calanche, DPSS Homeless Programs Unit, at (951) 358-5640 or email: ELCALANC@riversidedpss.org; or Don Smith, Institute for Urban Initiatives, at (909) 373-2754 or email: DonSmith@urban-initiatives.org.

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