Over 20 Greater Toluca Lake community members volunteered to help with the Toluca Lake Homeless Count on January 23. This is the first year Toluca Lake was included in the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which is headed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
Every January, over 8,000 volunteers undertake a three-day mission to count the homeless in every neighborhood around L.A. Using the data collected, services and outreach efforts can be better targeted to the needs of those experiencing homelessness. The extension of the count to Toluca Lake shows how serious the problem has become.
Most homeless counts around the nation occur every two years, but with the number of homeless in L.A. increasing more than 12% every year — and over 25% in Council District 4 alone (where Toluca Lake is located) — Los Angeles chooses to do it annually. Volunteers sign up to count around the city, walking or driving through designated census tracts to tally the number of displaced people, makeshift shelters, lived-in vehicles and encampments. This helps the city and LAHSA know where the greatest need for services exists and where resources should be allocated. With the passing of the 2016 $1.2 billion Proposition HHH Permanent Supportive Housing Loan Program, the LAHSA Homeless Count also helps the city designate where safe and affordable housing units — including a variety of necessary services and treatment programs — need to be built, and for how many people.
On January 23, volunteers gathered at Harmony Toluca Lake on Cahuenga and Whipple for a safety debriefing by LAPD Senior Lead Officer Rob Benavidez before their deployment. City Councilmember David Ryu was on hand to speak about why the count matters. He also candidly described his own background in working directly with those experiencing mental health issues.
Toluca Lake Farmers Market regular Amy Goodrich of Smitgens graciously donated a pre-count meal, including her vegan and gluten-free cupcakes. The Coffee Bean on Talofa and Riverside donated coffee to volunteers, and Toluca Lake stalwart Trader Joe’s supplied water for counters.
The results of the Homeless Count will be released in May. Until then, a huge thank-you to all Greater Toluca Lake volunteers for taking time to help their community.
If you are interested in helping with the count next year, go to LAHSA.org for information on how to sign up.