The annual survey to identify the number of homeless people dwelling in all areas of Riverside County will, for the first time, include individuals living in cars, officials announced Monday.

“We want to make sure as many people are counted as possible,” said Jennifer Claar, assistant director of the Department of Public Social Services. “By getting a more accurate count, we are helping ensure our communities get the funding and support they need to find solutions to homelessness.”

Supervising Code Enforcement Officer Mark Christian said it’s necessary to go “beyond the streets and encampments” to ensure a more complete tally.

The county’s 2020 “Point-in-Time Homeless Count” is slated for Jan. 29-31, when DPSS personnel and other county employees will canvass multiple locations to gauge how many people are living on the streets, in shelters and in abandoned or drivable vehicles.

Individuals affiliated with faith-based organizations, college students, members of neighborhood watch groups, and anyone else interested is welcome to lend a hand, according to DPSS officials.

The county is seeking at least 700 volunteers to assist with the three-day count. Roughly that same number participated in the 2019 survey, which documented 2,811 sheltered and unsheltered homeless adults and minors throughout the county, compared to 2,310 in 2018.

The countywide census is mandated under a U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development grant that uses count data to determine funding for homeless mitigation programs in the county.

The count will be split between a street-level operation and a “service-based survey.” During the street walk, volunteers will visit parks, alleyways, overpasses and encampments to ascertain the number of people living in places not intended for habitation, according to DPSS. The service survey will entail visiting shelters.

Some training is required before volunteers can carry out the survey. Most of the count will be conducted on Jan. 29. However, volunteers will specifically look for homeless persons who are under 25 years old during the ensuing two days, according to DPSS. Agency spokesman Luis Lopez said the number of dispossessed youth is likely under-counted each year.

“This is a vulnerable population that doesn’t always reach out for services,” Lopez said. “We’re looking for more youth-friendly volunteers, who can really connect with kids and teens to make sure they’re counted and get the help they need and deserve.”

Information about registering to take part in the survey can be found at .

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