L.A. County seeks to cancel annual homeless count amid pandemic

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A homeless man moves his belongings from a street behind Los Angeles City Hall as crews prepared to clean the area on July 1, 2019. (Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

A homeless man moves his belongings from a street behind Los Angeles City Hall as crews prepared to clean the area on July 1, 2019. (Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

Los Angeles County officials want to cancel the annual homeless count over concerns that it can’t be done safely or accurately during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for an exemption, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Congress requires that local regions count their homeless populations every two years. The data collected is used by the federal government to distribute resources for homeless services.

In recent years, as homelessness has grown, Los Angeles has done the count nearly every year over several days each January. Thousands of volunteers fan out to count tents, RVs and cars housing people throughout the region.

Members of the Board of Supervisors said it’s likely there wouldn’t be enough volunteers to pull off the count this year, the Times reported.

The count is coordinated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Heidi Marston, the authority’s director, said in a statement that there’s no way to safely do the tally while assuring that it was accurate.

Marston said that if the federal government grants the waiver, her agency would still count people living inside shelters and tally the number of number of beds and units available to homeless people through various government programs.

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