Why We Count

Our solutions are only as good as our information. The more informed we are allows us to understand and solve issues at a greater rate. The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is where we gather as much information as possible of those experiencing homelessness so that we can make informed decisions and creative solutions. It enables us to gather important data that is key for us to bring about an end to homelessness in Los Angeles.

Through the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, we will:

  • Inform the state of homelessness in LA
  • Bring vital community resources
  • Increase engagement bringing together leaders, residents and stakeholders

How We Count

There are four components to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Each of these components plays a vital role in understanding the state of homelessness in Los Angeles:

  • Street Count:

    A visual-only tally of everyone unsheltered experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. This is the bulk of our volunteer opportunity and community engagement

  • Shelter / Institutional Count:

    A count of everyone experiencing homelessness found in shelters, transitional housing, hospitals, and correctional facilities

  • Demographic Surveys:

    A survey-based collection of all demographic information of those experiencing homelessness

  • Youth Count

    A survey-based count of unaccompanied and unsheltered youth and young families under the age of 24 who are experiencing homelessness

See the 2017 Results Here

Who We Are

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The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) is a joint powers authority of the City and County of Los Angeles, created in 1993 to address the problems of homelessness in Los Angeles. It is responsible for funding and coordination of homeless services and housing assistance to support the homeless population of men, women and children in the City and County of Los Angeles.

Since 2005, LAHSA has coordinated six biennial Greater Los Angeles Homeless Counts. Beginning 2016, the Point-In-Time Count occurs annually. For more information visit www.lahsa.org.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

How does counting homeless persons help to reduce and end homelessness?

We need to know the size and scope of homelessness throughout Los Angeles County.  In order to make a difference in the lives of our homeless neighbors, we need to know who they are and where they reside. The Count is the first step to our goal of helping homeless persons find permanent housing.

I’ve never done this before. How will I know how to count homeless people?

All volunteers will be fully trained and provided with equipment and materials.

Can I select which area I want to volunteer in?

Yes! We encourage volunteers to count in the community they are most familiar with!  Visit www.TheyCountWillYou.org to register and indicate your area preference. 

What is the time commitment and expected schedule for the Homeless Count?

The time commitment is generally 3-5 hours for most volunteer roles on the day/night of the Count.  However, if you would also like to volunteer before and after the Count, please let us know when you register.

What will I be doing as a volunteer?

There are many volunteer roles available to help make the Homeless Count a success:

Volunteer Counters, Drivers or Navigators – receive training and materials on the day of the Count. Trained volunteers are deployed in groups of 2-4 to count specific blocks in an area.  Each position will be outside counting for up to 4 hours.

Office Volunteers – make phone calls to recruit volunteers; help with data entry; provide support at LAHSA headquarters. Shifts are 2-4 hours on the night of the Count.  You can also decide if you want to volunteer before, during or after the Count.

Can I invite others to join?

Yes! Once you’re registered, you can invite as many people as you would like simply by sending them the registration link.

I’m younger than 18, can I volunteer?

Yes! Youths age 14 to  17 years can sign up as volunteers to work at LAHSA headquarters before, during and/or after the Count. On the night of the Count, you can also work 2-4 hours at a deployment site. However, youth under 18 cannot participate as street count volunteers.

Why is the count in the winter and not the summer? Why is it conducted the last 10 days of January?

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates that all Continuums of Care conduct a census of their homeless population during the last 10 days of January. One reason the Count is conducted in January is that it’s historically the coldest month of the year, promoting more folks to be in shelter for the colder weather, making it easier to conduct the census. The reason for conducting the Count towards the end of the month is because that is when more people experience homelessness.

How confident are you with the numbers? Don't you miss a lot of people?

Our margin of error is less than 5%. We rely heavily on the knowledge of residents to help us count in their areas. That’s why it is really important for volunteers to come out and support the effort in their neighborhoods.

How do you know the demographic characteristics if it's a visual only count?

There are four components to the Homeless Count. The most publicized is the Street Count when thousands of volunteers conduct a visual tally. The second component is the Shelter and Institution Count where we ask service providers and institutions to report on how many homeless individuals occupied their facilities on the night of the Count. The third component is the Youth Count, which is survey-based. Youth experiencing homelessness are extremely difficult to identify by sight so we rely on a survey-based methodology. The fourth component is the demographic survey. This is where we survey a sample of 5,000 to 7,000 people experiencing homelessness. This large universe allows us to confidently estimate demographic characteristics such as veteran status, race, and gender for the entire homeless population in our Continuum of Care. This demographic information is also applied to the tally sheets collected during the Street Count.

Why is homelessness increasing so much?

Homelessness is a complex issue with a number of contributing factors ranging from systemic injustices to the health of the economy. In Los Angeles we face the huge challenge of the lack of affordable housing. The vacancy rate in LA is below than 3%, the lowest of all metropolitan areas in the country. When there are fewer apartments available for rent landlords charge more, making it difficult for folks who earn lower wages to afford a stable place to live. Los Angeles also suffers from a severe shortage of affordable housing and rental prices increasing faster than the average income, making it extremely difficult for many people to covering housing costs.

What is LAHSA doing to end homelessness in Los Angeles?

The County and City of LA formed LAHSA to be the lead agency to oversee the Los Angeles Continuum of Care. We are one partner of many who are working on the enormous challenge of ending homelessness. We primarily take on a coordinating role in the region by applying for and administering funding to over 100 service providers. We aim to take a community-based grassroots approach that builds on the strength within communities to address the challenge. LAHSA also has a department that provides outreach services to people living on the streets.

Why is the count important?

Our solutions are only as good as our information. The more informed we are allows us to understand and solve issues at a greater rate. The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is where we gather as much information as possible from those experiencing homelessness so that we can make informed decisions and develop creative solutions. It enables us to gather important data that is key for us to bring about an end to homelessness in Los Angeles

Through the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, we will:

  • Inform the state of homelessness in LA
  • Bring vital community resources
  • Increase engagement bringing together leaders, residents and stakeholders

Why do we have to do the count every year?

LAHSA conducts a Homeless Count every year to gain a clear understanding of trends, track progress, and better understand our homeless population so that we can address needs as quickly as possible.

Why do we count at night?

Our aim is to count when homeless individuals are beginning to settle in for the night. Counting at night or in the early morning hours reduces the chance of double counting someone who has moved from one area to another.

How long is going to take to volunteer?

Typically, volunteers are needed for 3-4 hours on the night/morning of the Count.

How will volunteers be assigned to or choose a deployment site?


Volunteers will register at theycountwillyou.org. They will go a through a simple 3 step process. The first two steps are filling out personal information. The third and final step is choosing the location(s) where you’d like to volunteer. If a volunteer wishes to count somewhere other than the site selected, they can volunteer at the site of their choice by contacting their Community Engagement Coordinator. Deployment sites do have limited capacity. Sign-ups are at first-come first-serve basis.

How can I volunteer beyond the Count?

We encourage volunteers to connect with local service providers where they can volunteer. LAHSA Community Engagement Coordinators can direct volunteers to local coalitions and service providers.