NORWALK – Dozens of volunteers spread out throughout Norwalk last Wednesday, Jan. 24, to count the homeless.
The gathering point for the volunteers was the Norwalk Social Service building on Alondra Blvd. Individuals and teams gathered for an orientation and assignment to different areas of the city.
According to Jonathan Hans of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count (GLAHC), 8,400 people signed up on their website to volunteer in the once-a-year count throughout Los Angeles County.
“Our solution is only as good as the data gathered,” Hans said regarding why the count was important.
In a media handout, the GLAHC stated, The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count will:
• Inform the state of homelessness in LA
• Bring vital community resources
• Increase engagement bringing together leaders, residents and stakeholders.”
“Over 80 people volunteered online for the Norwalk area,” said Norwalk deployment site coordinator Myrna Garcia.
At the beginning of the orientation, volunteers watched a short training video as they prepared to walk, drive and observe the signs of homelessness in Norwalk.
Counters would be looking for the ABC’s of homelessness or appearance, behavior and condition.
These signs would include cars parked on the street with windows covered or with lights on with people, RV’s with a generator running, tents, makeshift shelters and the overall visual condition of an individual.
No person was to be approached, for this was a count, not an interview event.
Volunteers were welcomed and thanked by Norwalk’s Mayor Luigi Vernola as well as Council Member Tony Ayala.
Regarding the count, Vernola stated, “[The Count] not only helps the homeless, but it helps us to better govern.”
Garcia also addressed the group before they were given their assignments.
According to Garcia, information from the count will be tallied and evaluated and would be available in late Spring or about June for use locally.
Sitting at one of the tables was Patricia Martinez, who has been doing this for many years as both a volunteer and as a member of PATH.
PATH, People Assisting the Homeless, is an organization which works with the homeless population in Norwalk as well as other neighboring communities.
According to the PATH website, “Our programs are to meet people ‘where they are,’ and work with them to achieve long-term stability.”
Currently, the City of Norwalk is awaiting a proposal from Lesar Development Consultants, to offer a possible solution to the homeless situation in the city. Its $49,000 cost was funded by a Los Angeles County grant designed for such studies.
It is not known if they will await the results of this count or use other data from other sources including last years count.
If you are homeless, you may call for assistance at the Gateway Council of Governments Outreach Hotline at 562- 373-5264.
By Raul Samaniego