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County seeks volunteers for Feb. 25 homeless census

Kenwood Press staff report

Sonoma County’s annual Point-in Time Street Count of people experiencing homelessness, which was canceled in 2021 due to the pandemic, returns this year on Friday, Feb. 25. Known informally as the “homeless census,” the count is a relatively accurate way for the Community Development Commission’s Continuum of Care (CoC) program to tabulate people experiencing homelessness in the county, whether they are living visibly in public locations or unobserved in places less well known.

Volunteers are once again needed to help support the count, but since the pandemic remains a factor in daily life, the CoC is requiring all volunteers be vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate.

“I think the main thing is that this year, we’re pre-deploying volunteers with maps and asking folks to pick areas they’re familiar with prior to the count so that we don’t have to gather in person,” said Ending Homelessness program manager Michael Gauss. “Everything will be done remotely with an app.”

The count is a requirement for receiving federal homeless assistance funds to support the CoC, and provides critical data used to both understand homelessness locally and support strategic decisions about the program. CoC “addresses the problems of housing and homelessness by having a countywide, community-informed, and person-centered CoC system that is compassionate, inclusive, financially responsible, equitable, coordinated, and outcomes-based,” according to the county’s website. Government, nonprofit, church-based, and other service organizations are connected to each other through CoC.

The Point-in-Time count has been taken since 2016, and has shown that between 2,750 and 3,000 people are usually homeless on the date of the survey. They are classified as chronically homeless; adult survivors of domestic abuse, substance abuse, or a serious mental illness; or adults with HIV/AIDS.

In 2020, the number was at its lowest — 2,745 — though the impact of the pandemic was not yet in full effect. Earlier this year, an outbreak of COVID-19, especially the omicron variant, struck homeless shelters in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

For more information, please click on the registration link on the CoC news page on the county website, or visit https://sonoma-county. Continuum-of-Care/News/2022-Sonoma-County-Homeless-Point-in-Time-Count-Volunteer-Registration-Now-Open!