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Santa Barbara County says it needs volunteers for upcoming count of unhoused people

Map shows the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in various locations throughout Santa Barbara County per Point-in-Time Count 2022.
CoC Santa Barbara County
Map shows the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in various locations throughout Santa Barbara County per Point-in-Time Count 2022.

This year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) Count in Santa Barbara County will take place on the morning of January 25. The county is calling for volunteers to help ensure the count's accuracy.

One morning each year, volunteers canvass neighborhoods and conduct brief surveys of people living outdoors, in their vehicles, and in shelters. The goal is to provide a snapshot of people experiencing homelessness.

“The Point-in-Time Count is a federally mandated annual count of all of those experiencing homelessness throughout a county,” Landon Ranck said.

Ranck is the Operations Manager for Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation (SB ACT), one of the coordinating agencies for this year’s Point-in-Time Count. He said the count is only possible with the help of volunteers.

“We do need volunteers; we need hundreds throughout the whole county. We have specific logistics centers in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Lompoc, Santa Maria and Solvang and that’s where we’ll be headquartered out of,” he said.

Ranck said the Point-in-Time Count captures important data about the number of unhoused individuals and families. The information is used to make policies and allocate resources to reduce homelessness.

Hundreds of volunteers are need for the PIT count each year.
Hundreds of PIT volunteers are needed throughout the county.

Last year in Santa Barbara County, the PIT total was 1,962 people which was slightly higher than past years. Isla Vista, Lompoc, and Santa Maria recorded increased numbers.

Ranck said there’s been little change for housing options within the county since the last count, so he doubts that the numbers have gone down.

“We anticipate that the numbers are about the same, possibly a little higher because we know that we’ve had some more evictions since the tenant protections have expired at a state level,” he said.

Ranck said the annual PIT survey is also an opportunity to hear from unhoused people about their circumstances and to better understand the causes and hardships associated with homelessness.

The Point-in-Time Count will take place rain or shine in the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 25th. Volunteers must register ahead of time and complete an online training session.

“We make sure our volunteers know how to interact with the individuals experiencing homelessness – how to be polite and respectful of the space and boundaries that we are, in some sense, invading by approaching individuals so early in the morning,” he said.

Volunteering is a way to get involved and become part of the solution to homelessness, he said, and the more volunteers they have, the more accurate the count will be.

Thursday, January 19 is the deadline for sign-ups.

More information is at CountyofSB.pointintime.info.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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