LA County seeks to skip 2021 homeless count amid COVID pandemic

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to back a request by Los Angeles County's lead homeless services agency to postpone a federally mandated count of people living on the street in order to avoid a potential COVID-19 superspreader event.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is asking the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be exempted from counting unsheltered homeless individuals in 2021.

Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended supporting LAHSA's position.

"Moving ahead with the (point-in-time) counts would be a risky and challenging activity at best and a dangerous, superspreader event in the worst-case scenario, quickly infecting a high number of people with a very contagious and deadly disease,'' Solis stated in her motion.

HUD requires the count in odd-numbered years as a condition of federal funding.

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The federal department has not made a move to drop the requirement nationwide, though it acknowledges on its website that sampling may replace a more comprehensive count this year and that some jurisdictions may not be able to comply.

Agencies asking for an exemption are being asked to explain what other efforts they will take to understand the needs of unsheltered homeless individuals in their communities.

The Los Angeles County count typically involves thousands of volunteers, including service providers who are already stretched thin during the pandemic.

A LAHSA spokesman said the agency was still planning to conduct a 2021 count of all homeless individuals living in shelters, as well as a housing inventory.

Street encampments have been growing dramatically over the last few years, and nearly three-quarters of the 66,346 Los Angeles County residents enumerated in last year's count were unsheltered and living in tents, cars or other makeshift shelters.
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