By Charlie Warner, Special to the Independent
With 948 square miles to cover countywide, volunteers convened at 4:30 a.m. last Saturday, Jan. 28, at five deployment centers to undertake the biannual Point in Time survey of Orange County’s homeless population.
Once there, the volunteers were broken up in small groups and given specific detailed maps in order to avoid skewing the results with overlapping territories. One of the deployment centers was Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) of San Clemente, which assists those in need with resources for food, shelter and counsel.
About 150 volunteered in San Clemente including Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and state Senator John Moorlach, among others, said FAM Executive Director Mary Perdue.
Under the stars at the San Mateo Campground in San Clemente, my two fellow volunteers served as an interesting cross section of those who pitched in to help those in need. As we searched through bushes and shrubs, we all got to know each other though ultimately we did not find any homeless people in the assigned territory.
Gail Duncan, the owner and operator of the Art Hotel in Laguna Beach, also serves on the city’s Housing and Human Services Committee. “I didn’t want the committee to not be aware of what the rest of the county was doing. I couldn’t be a part of the committee in good conscience without helping the count and to get the federal funds in,” said Duncan.
Duncan also donated hygiene supplies for the program prior to the count. “In the end, I was honored to watch the process, and am excited to bring more people out to the next count,” she said.
The other volunteer in my group was Brandon Melvin, a marine veteran and current housing coordinator for Volunteers of America in Santa Ana. “In my time with the Marine Corps, I gained an affinity of helping others,” said Melvin. His employer helps vulnerable and under-served people by providing needed services. Melvin was familiar to the area we were assigned, as the campground shared a border with the Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton.
The survey was carried out to meet federal Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements. The count helps determine the amount of federal funding the county receives to aid the homeless. The organization that helps run the count is 211 Orange County, based in Santa Ana, a non-profit that strives to connect homeless people with the resources they need.
The surveys ask homeless people their age, gender and race as well as if they are veterans, were in foster care, experienced domestic violence, use illicit drugs, are parolees and where they slept the night before.
In the previous 2015 count, volunteers identified 4,452 homeless in Orange County, a 5 percent increase from two years earlier. Six years ago, in 2009, the number was nearly twice a high at 8,333. The survey reflects a single night and does not count people living in hotels or staying with good Samaritans.
The article Survey Counts Homeless in Orange County, inaccurately reported that state Sen. John Moorlach helped as a volunteer, relying on the statement of an organizer. Moorlach is the chair of the county Commission to End Homelessness. A participant in the past, he was in Sacramento on Saturday, Jan. 28.