Nearly 50 Carlsbad residents got an early start Thursday logging as many as 10,000 steps before 6 a.m. as they volunteered for the annual Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness in Carlsbad. The event is part of a nationwide effort to learn about and document homelessness to help inform strategies to address it, including how resources are allocated.
Locally, the count is coordinated by the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness. The City of Carlsbad got involved three years ago as part of its Homeless Response Plan. According to the city’s Homeless Program Manager Holly Nelson, serving as a coordination site and recruiting local volunteers has several benefits, including:
Building awareness among local officials and the public
Utilizing people who know the local community and terrain
Getting a more accurate count
The count started at 4 a.m. and took about four hours. Most volunteers were paired with city staff and assigned to one or more census tracks. The 2020 count is the first time the City of Carlsbad has opened the event to community volunteers.
“When the city held a town hall meeting on homelessness last year, a lot of community members said they wanted to get a better understanding of why people become homeless and the best way to help,” said Nelson. “It’s such a complicated issue, and the first step toward a lasting solution is understanding the many causes. I was so impressed with all the people who showed up wanting to get involved. It really says a lot about our community.”
The Point in Time event is more than a count; teams also interview as many people as they can, even if it means waking them up. For the first time this year, Carlsbad used a map based app that allowed team members to log locations more precisely and document survey responses more quickly.
All of the data is fed back to the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, which compiles a report that is usually released in May.
Carlsbad’s Homeless Response Plan
In 2017, the City of Carlsbad launched a homeless response plan, which includes a special homeless outreach team in the Police Department, licensed social workers to provide better access to services, regional partnerships and regular cleanups of homeless encampments.
In 2019, the city nearly doubled the amount of resources devoted to the plan, including adding more police officers to the homeless outreach team, hiring a manager to ensure efficient coordination of the city’s efforts and creating a housing navigator position focused on helping people find affordable housing. So far, the city has successfully placed 16 people into permanent housing and another 31 into temporary shelters. In 2019, the city responded to 4,626 homeless related calls for service and completed the 114 encampment cleanups.