JOSHUA TREE — Volunteers are being sought for this year’s Point In Time Homeless Count in the Morongo Basin.
The annual survey provides county officials not only with the number of homeless residents but information, about how they became homeless and how they can be helped to exit life on the streets.
This year’s count will be held from 6 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, and will once again see teams of volunteers fan out across the Morongo Basin to look for and survey homeless residents.
Traditionally, volunteers fanning out into the community, and those working at central locations where homeless residents can come in an self report, also provide homeless residents with incentives to take part; from food and hygiene items to sleeping bags.
Volunteers will need to register for the count by going online to wp.sbcounty.gov/dbh/sbchp and clicking on “Point-In-Time Count” to find information about registering and mandatory training.
In the Morongo Basin, a training session will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, in the probation conference room at 63665 Twentynine Palms Highway.
Training includes use of recently initiated electronic methods for counting homeless residents and an emphasis on staying safe while in the field.
“They can choose the city they can volunteer in,” Office of Homeless Services Program Specialist Claudia Doyle said.
Last year’s count employed more than 700 volunteers across the county.
Wayne Hamilton, who works with the Morongo Unified School District to provide services to homeless students, emphasized the need to get an accurate count of homeless people in order for the Morongo Basin to get its share of state funding for homeless services.
The Morongo Basin, he said, is one of five regions which will get a share of $3 million in funding provided by the state to San Bernardino County for homeless services. The level of funding, he added, is based on the number of homeless people counted in the annual survey.
Last year’s count, 151 homeless people, grossly under-counted the number of homeless people in the region, he said.
More volunteers, he said, are needed to get to the out of the way areas where homeless residents have set up encampments.
“Normally we have about 35 people who sign up,” he said.
“The Morongo Basin is 1,400 square miles. We have people who are off the grid. There is no way we can count them with 30 people in three hours.”
He said he is working to develop a Facebook page to encourage people to take part in the Morongo Basin count.
“Try to find people who are willing to count, try to find people who are involved with off-road motorcycle or vehicle clubs.”
The bottom line, he said, is more volunteers are needed to cover more space.
“We are scattered over 1,400 square miles. These encampments are out in the middle of the desert. It is a challenge but we need to figure out how we can do it.”
For more information, call Hamilton at (760) 401-0375 or Doyle at (909) 386-8297.