Homeless count in Downey begins next week

DOWNEY - Beginning next Tuesday night, a corps of volunteers, including several city councilmen, will fan out across the city in a unique survey that they hope will aid in addressing the chronic homelessness of so many residents. Organizers of the "Downey Counts" Registry Week seek to create a by-name registry of people who are homeless in this city, and identify those who are most vulnerable at this point in time.

Survey teams will gather at the Moravian church on Old River School Road Tuesday, January 29. From 7 pm - 9 pm volunteers will travel along designated routes to count the homeless for that period of time. They will not retrace their steps in order to avoid counting someone twice. Teams will then return the next two nights to survey needs.

"Cold nights are the most troubling," said Rev. Christie Melby-Gibbons of the Downey Moravian Church who is coordinating the effort with Bob Varden of the Downey First Christian Church. Organizers will also meet with the police chief to discuss "hotspots" of homeless individuals.

"Housing is the number one priority," Melby-Gibbons explains. "Some people just need a little help to be connected with a family member or the right mental health services."

The Downey Registry Week is part of the greater Los Angeles Housing Services Authority (LAHSA) effort. The homeless count is taken every two years, and it enables private and public agencies to identify resources and better assist homeless families and individuals.

Data will be entered and organized at the Southern California Rehabilitation Services (SCRS) at the Barbara J. Riley Center on Quill Drive, and presented at a press conference on Saturday, February 2.

Andrew Wahlquist of the First Baptist Church is urging people to spread the word and volunteer if possible. Citing Downey's lack of infrastructure to provide services for the homeless, Wahlquist says, "This project is an important first step."

People can sign up at: theycountwillyou.org, or inquire by email to: christie@downeymoravian.org.

********** Published: January 24, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 41