In light of COVID cancellations, Culver City organizes local homeless count

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With LA County cancelling its annual homeless count for 2021, the city council voted to conduct a local homeless count on Jan. 27, starting at 9 p.m. 

The operation will be carried out by various city departments, who will collaborate to record the number of homeless on the streets of Culver City.

Earlier last year, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) requested that homeless ‘Point-In-Time’ (PIT) reporting requirements for 2021 be waived due to safety concerns, and the request was granted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on Dec. 10. 

While homeless numbers at shelters and other institutions will be counted by the Homeless Management, this exemption means that the 2021 street count will not officially be conducted by LA County.

In response to this, city staff has put together a plan for a local count of homeless on city streets. The plan would require the collaboration of City Manager’s Office, the Housing Division, the Culver City Police and Fire Departments (CCPD and CCFD), and the Culver City Saint Joseph Center (SJC) Homeless Outreach Team, who came together via Zoom on Dec. 17 to discuss some of the logistics behind the potential operation.

Staff estimates that the count would last from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m., with a separate count for Ballona Creek being conducted that day. The LAHSA normally sends a special team to conduct the Ballona Creek count, but this year’s will be done by the city’s Emergency Operations Center, which was activated for the first time in the city’s history earlier this year in response to COVID, the protests following George Floyd’s death, and the tension during the U.S. Elections. Members as part of the EOC-assembled team will include the CCPD, CCFD and the Assistant to the City Manager on Homelessness.

While the methodology for the count would be the same as it was in previous years, counters would stay in their vehicles while tallying each unhoused person/family visible on the street, makeshift tent and shelter, RV and vehicle.

In addition to this distancing during the counting, the following guidelines have been outlined for staff participating in the count to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection:

All participating staff will follow the CCFD/PD Daily Infection Control Procedures and complete the Daily Employee Health Screen Form 

All staff will test their body temperatures before commencing the Internal Count. Staff with elevated body temperatures will not be allowed to participate in the evening’s event. Staff with any flu-like symptoms will also not be allowed to participate in the internal count. 

Staff will be mandated to wear a N95 mask at all times. No eating or drinking will be allowed to prevent the removal of masks.  

Car windows will remain open at all times to allow for air circulation. There will be teams of no more than 2-3 persons per vehicle.   

While waiting, vehicles will be separated by two parking spaces. Staff will maintain social distancing by using an open underground parking garage as the base of operations, and will stand a minimum of 10 feet apart.

Staff will wear gloves while preparing and distributing field survey packets for each team.