By Bay City News Service
Contra Costa County is still seeking volunteers to help count the area's homeless population on Jan. 30. The county's health services department relies on volunteers to take the biennial "point-in-time" count, which gathers data the department needs to secure state and federal funding, said Lavonna Martin, the county's acting director of homeless programs.
Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and are required to complete a one-hour training session. During the two-hour count on the morning of Jan. 30, volunteers in different parts of the county will set out by car in teams of two to scour streets and parks for the homeless.
By the county's definition, that includes those who are living in their cars. The tally of the outdoor homeless population is also paired with the number of individuals staying in homeless shelters, Martin said.
"This count really allows us to assess the extent of homelessness in Contra Costa County," she said.
County estimates show that more than 7,000 people in the county experienced homelessness last year. In addition to providing a numerical estimate, the count is also a tool to help the county understand the root causes of homelessness, Martin said. In recent years, the economic downturn has been a common underlying factor for many of the county's homeless, she noted.
Homelessness strikes Contra Costa residents of all ages. Last year, some 43 percent of the local homeless population was under 24-years-old, according to Martin. For the upcoming count, the county plans to focus on its relationship with youth services organizations and schools to help provide resources for homeless children and families.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering for the homeless count may call (925) 313-6124, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out an online application form at http://cchealth.org/services/homeless/.
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