Topanga’s Homeless Count Finds More Than 100 in the Canyon

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      March 4, 2022

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Topanga’s Homeless Count Finds More Than 100 in the Canyon
Photo by Annemarie Donkin L. A. Homeless Count volunteers Jaspreet Katrib and Simon Van Meervenne walked the areas of Alta Drive, Henry Ridge, and Summit to Summit but had no sightings.
Three volunteer teams scouring Topanga on February 23 counted more than 100 unhoused people on the streets, in tents and in vehicles. The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count enables the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to gather important data that they feel is key to bringing about an end to homelessness in Los Angeles. Thousands of volunteers participate annually in the point-in-time count of the tens of thousands of homeless youth and families, veterans of the armed forces, and men and women who are our neighbors. The 2022 Count was held on February 22, 23, and 24 and covered all of L.A. County except the cities of Glendale, Pasadena, and Long Beach, which conduct their own counts. Moderated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and coordinated locally by LAHSA, the Greater Los Angeles Homeless count is the largest homeless census count in the nation. LAHSA said the numbers from the 2022 Count will be published in June. Yet, according to the Times Editorial Board of June 12, 2020, “The results of the 2020 annual count of homeless people in Los Angeles are grim—perhaps not surprising to any of us who witness daily the tragedy of people living on sidewalks. According to the editorial, “Homelessness increased by 12.7 percent in the county, to 66,433, and by 14.2 percent in the city of Los Angeles, where the number stands at 41,290. The homeless population has now increased by a double-digit percentage for two years in a row. That’s despite a record 22,769 homeless people getting off the streets and into housing last year. The maddening reality highlighted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s survey is that, despite billions of dollars of investment in housing, shelter and services, we still can’t house people as fast as they fall into homelessness.” Topanga’s Count On Wednesday, Feb. 23, three teams spread around Topanga at about 7 a.m. to participate in the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count and were assigned to census districts ranging from PCH to Top O’ Topanga. One day prior to the count, Topanga’s teams were alerted via email to look out for vehicles spotted around midnight on Tuesday, Feb. 22—a white van on the east side of TCB about one mile north of Summit Valley park; van aqua blue mini school bus on the east side of TCB north of Topanga Creek Outpost; a white pickup down behind Froggy’s near the creek; a dark SUV on the west side of TCB in the far corner dirt turnout just north of Topanga Elementary School; a white Isuzu at the site of the former Corral at Santa Maria Road; and a dark sedan at 649 Old Canyon parked on the west side dirt turnout in front of the bridge.  In order to count these people parked on the roads and others, The Canyon Chronicle joined Topangans Jaspreet Katrib and Simon Van Meervenne on Wednesday morning to count on Alta Drive, Henry Ridge, and Summit to Summit. Our team’s count was zero as we did not find anyone camping in a tent or living in a vehicle in spite of reports of at least eight unhoused people in the Alta Drive area. “I was prepared,” Katrib wrote in an email. “I watched the count tutorials, how to use the app video, and read all the instructions. Perhaps that’s why my team and I were rewarded with such a beautiful Summit to Summit hike. It was a stunning and crisp morning date with the mountains for us. Had to remind myself why we were there.” On Wednesday, another team found their Census tract was so large that they spent seven hours driving up and down the Canyon while entering the numbers into the AKIDO app that LAHSA uses to compile the data. A member of that team, Alisa Land Hill, Vice President of the Topanga Town Council, reported that they counted 27 unhoused people in the area that included Tuna, PCH at Topanga Canyon Blvd., Los Flores in the creek, and scattered in cars through the Saddle Peak area. On Friday, Feb. 25, the Topanga teams gathered online for a debriefing hosted by the County. There was concern during the debrief that they may have undercounted in Topanga, especially in the Old Center, yet a LAHSA spokesman said the count usually balances out in the end. “The theory is that by doing [the count] across the County on those nights, if they weren’t in that spot, they will be counted elsewhere,” the LAHSA spokesman said by phone. One of the teams included Topanga volunteer Norm Berezowsky and was accompanied by members of the Sheriff’s homeless outreach team as they searched Topanga Beach, PCH, and the hills behind the AM/PM mini market at PCH. “It was rather quick for us,” Berezowsky said during the Friday debrief. “We were out there at 7 a.m…we found about 29 people along the beaches and about 15 or so in motor homes along the route. It went really well…the app seemed to work okay.” So, while there are indeed homeless people in Topanga, they are primarily concentrated at the beach, on PCH, at the Topanga Town Center, camping in the hills, and in vehicles along the Boulevard. “To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the census tract that we were appointed to,” said Van Meervenne by email. “I expected to count areas where we would find some homeless people. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed our excursion into nature. The fact that we helped does give me satisfaction. Overall, I found the organization, preparation, and the app very well organized… I hope the count serves its purpose and gives LAHSA the tools to better serve the homeless.” About LAHSA. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) is a joint powers authority of the City and County of Los Angeles, created in 1993 to address the problems of homelessness in Los Angeles County. LAHSA is the lead agency in the HUD-funded Los Angeles Continuum of Care and coordinates and manages more than $243 million annually in federal, state, county, and city funds for programs providing shelter, housing and services to homeless persons. For more information visit lahsa.org
Annemarie Donkin
      March 4, 2022

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