Members of faith-based groups, churches, civic affairs organizations, public agencies, student bodies and many others are needed for Riverside County’s 2023 point-in-time homeless count, with officials Tuesday asking all those interested in taking part next month to sign up.

“Riverside County and the Continuum of Care have taken an aggressive approach to address homelessness across the region,” Second District Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “The data gathered from the count informs us where our services are needed most. It is so important that we all support the count, so that every person experiencing homelessness is identified.”

Ideally, the county would like to have more than 700 volunteers available to find and verify the status of individuals who may be living in cars, under bridges, in transient encampments, homeless shelters and other locations throughout the county.

The county Continuum of Care manages the annual outings. The entity is composed of representatives from civic groups, nonprofit organizations and government.

“To obtain an accurate count, we need participation from those who know their communities,” county Department of Public Social Services PIT Count Coordinator Laura Gonzalez said. “Volunteers can … survey individuals in their city of residence, or another city of their choice. Volunteers will work with experienced providers to connect those in need to housing and social services.”

The 2022 homeless census confirmed 3,316 people were chronically unsheltered, a 15% increase from two years ago.

The 2021 homeless census was severely curtailed, with virtually no canvassing of known transient dwelling spaces, because of the coronavirus public health lockdowns. Data was based only on shelter interactions and did not provide an accurate representation of the county’s homeless population.

The January 2020 count revealed 2,284 adults and youths were chronically homeless countywide, about a 3% increase from the prior year.

No experience with point-in-time counts is necessary to volunteer. The canvass is slated to take place Jan. 25-27. It will be bifurcated, with the initial count focused on the general number of dispossessed county residents, and the secondary survey specifically seeking to estimate the number of minors on the streets.

Some training is required, and although youths as young as 16 years old can participate, all minors will have to be accompanied by an adult, according to county officials.

Volunteers must also have a smart phone or tablet to conduct the survey and be able to walk up to two hours.

The data is used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how to distribute federal homeless relief funding, and by policy makers in determining the scope of homelessness nationwide — including what’s working, and what’s not.

All those interested in participating were encouraged to register at rivcohws.org/homeless-point-time-pit-count.

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