IMPERIAL COUNTY — The homeless camps that have become a common sight, especially in El Centro, may lead some to wonder just how many in Imperial County are without a permanent dwelling. That answer will come soon due to the annual “point in time” count to be conducted Jan. 24-25 by Imperial County and the area’s lead agency for the homeless.
“Our aim is on getting accurate numbers of
the homeless. The count is a snapshot of the Imperial Valley’s homeless in real
time,” said Anna Garcia, co-chair of the count effort of the Imperial
Valley Continuum of Care Council.
The council, which operates under the oversight
of Imperial County and its Department of Social Services, helps administer
funding for homeless-assistance programs in the county.
“It’s how we qualify to apply for federal
grants from HUD (Housing and Urban Development),” Garcia said of the count
Where Counts Will Occur
On Jan. 24,
volunteers will count the homeless in local cities during the afternoon and
evening and on Jan. 25 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. will visit Slab City, a former military
base north of Brawley popular with those who do not have permanent dwellings.
The council has 75 volunteers for the city effort and 45 for Slab City,
City there will be four stations for the homeless to meet with volunteers
including the Blue Church, Oasis Cafe, Mojo’s Camp and the public space at the
base of Salvation Mountain.
persons will be asked how long they have been homeless, if they obtain services,
what services would they like, if they are a veteran, are they the head of
household, how many in their household, were they recently released from prison
and when, total number in their household and how much schooling they have
comes as HUD maintains the county needs to track homeless data more efficiently
through a Homeless Management Information System. It is a computerized data
collection tool designed to archive client statistics over time concerning the needs
of men, women and children experiencing homelessness.
important element for the counters is safety, Garcia explained. Volunteers are
divided into four-person teams with a lead and the other three members doing
the surveys. The details obtained from the homeless about their situations is
vital to getting them assistance, Garcia explained.
has a different story so you can’t generalize the entire homeless population. We
acquire data in a case-by-case study,” she said. “We just do the
census. We are not there to provide any professional services. That’s not our
provide a resource sheet with a list of services and places where the homeless
can find emergency shelter. These include organizations such as 2-1-1 San
Diego, Catholic Charities’ Guadalupe Men’s Shelter, House of Hope, Neighborhood
House and WomanHaven.
what I’ve seen, the biggest problems are substance abuse and behavioral health
issues,” said Garcia. “The majority of the homeless we encounter in
the inner cities are already receiving some type of service.”
In 2019 the
count recorded 1,413 homeless in the county. Of that number, 33 percent were
women, 4.3 percent veterans, 20.7 percent families with children, 4.9 percent
young adults 18 to 24, and 35 percent were chronically homeless.
can be difficult to get every individual’s story but we can see how they are
different from one another,” said Garcia. “I’m already dealing with
some of these individuals on a day-to-day basis (Garcia is an El Centro code
enforcement officer). We’re already acquainted so it helps them to open up. We
are trying to build rapport with them this way.”