Scour­ing the AV for home­less

Vol­un­teers par­tic­i­pate in Greater L.A. count

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By JULIE DRAKE Val­ley Press Staff Writer

LAN­CASTER — The Val­ley Oa­sis out­reach team of Nick Matthews, Re­becca Springer, and Gallo An­gulo knew where to look when they set out early Thurs­day morn­ing for the 2020 Greater Los An­ge­les Home­less Count.

They searched the desert south of the Kaiser Per­ma­nente An­te­lope Val­ley Med­i­cal Of­fice build­ing along Av­enue L west of Sierra High­way. As Matthews drove the truck over the desert ter­rain, An­gulo nav­i­gated us­ing the map pro­vided by Los An­ge­les Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity and Springer tal­lied the seem­ingly hid­den makeshift shel­ters, tents, and campers.

“That’s the one thing that’s kind of weird is you don’t re­ally see any­thing un­til you kind of get into it,” Matthews said. “That’s some­thing that you wouldn’t no­tice or know un­less you’re do­ing the work.”

Be­cause they con­duct out­reach to peo­ple who live in the desert, they know where to look. They know about the un­der­ground home­less camps. They know how to iden­tify a home­less camp.

What looked like a large camp at one lo­ca­tion turned out to be­long to two fam­i­lies, Springer said.

“Work­ing with this for so long we have an eye for look­ing into the field,” Springer said. “It be­comes more train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence to see what we’re look­ing for.”

For a per­son ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness, a big tree can pro­vide pro­tec­tion from the wind and sun, so it is a suit­able place for some­one to camp, Springer added.

“The sur­vival tech­niques of these peo­ple are just as­ton­ish­ing,” she said.

Some­times, they meet some­one in dire need of med­i­cal help. They had to con­vince one man suf­fer­ing from frost­bite on his foot and whose clothes were soaked

from a rain storm to go to the hos­pi­tal with them.

“He was in so much pain. … They said ba­si­cally if he would have stayed out there one more night he would have died,” Springer said.

Springer added they placed the man in bridge cri­sis hous­ing.

“Ba­si­cally out­reach’s role is to get these folks en­gaged and we want them to get hous­ing,” Matthews said.

An­gulo started work­ing for Val­ley Oa­sis in Oc­to­ber. Val­ley Oa­sis co­or­di­nated with the City of Lan­caster on the home­less count.

“It’s a good job. It’s good work and it’s good to go help peo­ple,” An­gulo said.

Their tract in­cluded the WinCo park­ing lot, where Springer counted thee cars, one SUV and three campers.

About 31 vol­un­teers met at the Val­ley Oa­sis of­fice build­ing on Sahuayo Street in the pre-dawn dark­ness. They watched a 15-minute train­ing video that de­tailed how to con­duct the count, signed waiver forms, and took a last-minute “quiz” be­fore they set out in teams to count peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in their as­signed tract.

“This is an ac­tual tan­gi­ble step in which we can con­tinue to help solve this is­sue, this hu­man rights is­sue of home­less­ness that we have to­day,” Mercedes Fri­er­son, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor, Op­er­a­tions & Train­ing, Ac­cess & En­gage­ment De­part­ment for the Los An­ge­les Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity, which con­ducts the an­nual count, said to vol­un­teers.

The Val­ley Oa­sis of­fice was one of sev­eral de­ploy­ment sites across the An­te­lope Val­ley, in­clud­ing Acton, Lake Los An­ge­les, Leona Val­ley/Lake El­iz­a­beth, Lit­tle­rock/Sun Village and Palm­dale. Val­ley Oa­sis’ vol­un­teer coun­ters cov­ered 14 tracts. They worked in teams

Vol­un­teer Kathy Jud­dine, who works for Val­ley Oa­sis, counted tran­si­tion age youth (ages 18 to 24) last year. She wanted to get out on the street this year.

“I wanted to get the ex­pe­ri­ence of ac­tu­ally see­ing the home­less,” Jud­dine said. “Be­cause I do in­take I never get to see the home­less on the street. They al­ways come through the doors, so just to see them ac­tu­ally in their en­vor­ments.”

Palm­dale res­i­dent El­iz­a­beth Monje vol­un­teered for the count for the first time this year.

“I just want to give back to my com­mu­nity and this is a re­ally great op­por­tu­nity to help get fund­ing for peo­ple in need,” Monje said.

Thurs­day was the third and fi­nal day of the point-in-time street count. In the An­te­lope Val­ley, which is un­der Ser­vice Plan­ning Area 1, vol­un­teers were lim­ited to driv­ing tracts, so vol­un­teers tal­lied peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness by ve­hi­cle.

The home­less count is man­dated by the U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Developmen­t and co­or­di­nated by the Los An­ge­les Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity. L.A. County con­ducts the count an­nu­ally to have the most ac­cu­rate data. The count helps of­fi­cials bet­ter un­der­stand home­less­ness in the re­gion and di­rect re­sources where they are needed most.

Last year’s count showed the Val­ley’s home­less pop­u­la­tion grew 2.8% to 3,293 per­sons ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness.

JULIE DRAKE/VAL­LEY PRESS

A home­less camp off Sierra High­way and Av­enue L is re­in­forced with a block wall. Val­ley Oa­sis co­or­di­nated Thurs­day with the City of Lan­caster for the 2020 Greater Los An­ge­les Home­less Count.

JULIE DRAKE/VAL­LEY PRESS

Large trees can pro­vide pro­tec­tion from the wind and sun for some­one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness.

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