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latest news LA County homeless tally postponed due to Omicron

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority announced on Friday that it is delaying its annual homeless census by one month due to risks posed by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

In doing so, LA County became the last jurisdiction in California to delay its count. Several parts of the Bay Area have also announced or are considering delaying their one-time tally by one month. San Diego did the same this week.

This year’s tally is considered particularly important because authorities in Los Angeles, like in most areas of the state, canceled the homeless count last year during the winter wave of COVID-19. As a result, authorities have struggled to understand how the pandemic has influenced the size of the region’s homeless population.

About 7,000 volunteers were expected to fan out across the county to undertake the count more than three days later this month. Now the task of counting tents, cars and other structures will take place from February 22 to 24.

“As we work to ensure an accurate homeless count, we cannot ignore the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases in our region,” said LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston. “Even with safety precautions such as moving the training online, developing outdoor deployment sites, and keeping households together, moving forward with a count in January puts our unhoused neighbors, volunteers, our staff at risk. personnel and the accuracy of the account. ”

A colossal undertaking, the census costs millions of dollars and represents a moment when the public is focusing on one of its thorniest challenges. Data, which helps prioritize how money is spent, can become a political football.

There is little reliable data to gauge the effectiveness of the hundreds of millions of dollars the city and county have spent to address homelessness since the pandemic began. As a result, this year’s figures were eagerly awaited, as thousands of new housing units – mostly temporary – have opened since the last count in January 2020.

The 2020 count found that approximately 66,000 people were homeless in Los Angeles County.

“The homeless count is an essential tool to give us a timely overview of homelessness. Count data is used to inform the delivery of homeless services and programs in Los Angeles,” Marston said in a written statement. “This decision is our best way to ensure the accuracy of homelessness counts without jeopardizing the health and safety of homeless people, volunteers and the community. ”

The pandemic has hit the homeless population hard. Last week, there were 918 confirmed cases of infection among the homeless, according to the LA County Department of Public Health. The number of new cases per week increased dramatically in December as the Omicron variant spread. There have been outbreaks in dozens of shelters across the region.

This wave has led activists and social service organizations to ask elected officials to suspend the authorization and application of a law prohibiting camping in certain places in the city.

This did not happen.



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