LA County homeless count: A behind-the-scenes look with volunteers in Santa Monica

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Some 300 volunteers split into a few dozen teams spent several hours counting the homeless in Santa Monica as part of the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

Volunteers and officials crisscrossed each corner of the city into the early morning hours Thursday.

"As a city we use the data to help us deploy where resources are most needed," said Alisa Orduña, the city's senior advisor on homelessness.

With winter shelters still open, her team didn't encounter too many homeless individuals overnight, but tried their best to locate everyone.

"Sometimes people will reuse the mattress until it's picked up as their sleeping area," Orduña said. "So, we kind of look around the dumpsters, because in some ways that's a safe place if you're on the street, you can kind of hide and feel somewhat protected."

The final tally, released later this year, could impact federal funding.

In 2018, there were nearly 59,000 homeless individuals across L.A. County, a 12% increase from the year before.

Nearly a thousand were counted in Santa Monica, a 3% increase.

"I always wanted to volunteer and give back in any and every way that I could," said Jasmine Carter.

Carter knows exactly what it's like to be the streets. She was homeless for a couple years in South L.A. and Skid Row. Now, she's working to find solutions.

"It feels great, I mean, you see some people out there that you know, and you can have that rapport already built with them, and so they kind of point you in the direction that other people are in," Carter said.

The number of homeless individuals counted this year will be an indicator of how local strategies are working, in collaboration with broader strategies across the county.

"This count, you take it, pass it on to who it needs to be passed on to, and they release funds, possibly, hopefully, to help with some resources to help these people get off the streets," Carter said.

There is one more night of the homeless count across L.A. County.

Mayor Eric Garcetti is in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, where he will have a discussion with mayors and advocates regarding homelessness.

Garcetti plans to meet with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson to request more federal assistance.
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