CHPD and Volunteers Conduct Homeless Count

Citrus Heights, CA (MPG)  |  By Elise Spleiss
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On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, the City of Citrus Heights and the Citrus Heights Police Department participated in Sacramento Steps Forward’s ‘Point in Time’ (PIT) homeless count to assist the organization in getting the best picture possible of homelessness in Citrus Heights, so that financial and other resources can be allocated appropriately.

The Department of Urban Development (HUD) provides direction for the counting process and Sacramento Steps Forward is responsible for conducting the count, which includes creating the maps."

The count is federally mandated and must be conducted every two years in each city where HUD is working with other government and nonprofits providers to provide funding to help with the many issues related to homelessness.

An email from Katherine Cooley, Community & Economic Development, who was also a volunteer, read, “It is always our goal to provide resources to our homeless population where needed, while also enforcing laws to preserve residents’ quality of life. We address this issue using a multi-pronged approach and our partnership with Sacramento Steps Forward is one example of this.”

According the Elise Beckman, Consultant PIT Coordinator with Steps Forward, the Citrus Heights count was part of a county-wide effort, with an additional 220 volunteers were deployed from the Department of Human Assistance (DHA) in mid-town Sacramento to the cities of Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt, Rancho Cordova, Sacramento and Isleton.

According the Sgt. Jason Baldwin in a phone interview: two years ago, after ‘being forgotten’ in the count, the City and the Citrus Heights Police Department (CHDP), closely following HUD’s mapped sections and count method, took on the project, recruiting volunteers from the community to help. These five sections are just a portion of the city mapped out by HUD to determine funding.

On January 25, a dozen volunteers were teamed up with a dozen police officers. Volunteers included city workers, members of the Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART) and members of American Legion Post 637.

A short training was conducted at the police department. Baldwin and Cooley told volunteers what to expect throughout the five sections the city was divided into, and how to locate the homeless in those areas. A form to keep track of those counted was explained, including at what kind of venue they were found, their age, gender and race.

Volunteers were then divided up into teams with two officers assigned to volunteers assigned to each of their five sections of the city. At 7 p.m. the teams were deployed to their assigned sections.

This reporter participated in the count, following Officers James Garing and Nate Hutson in their squad car. The officers quickly scoured every inch of each area of their sector, with their vehicle spotlights. They would often jump out of their vehicle with flashlights to further inspect specific areas including dumpsters, creek beds, strip malls, other shopping areas, residential streets and undeveloped greenbelts. They knew where they were looking and who they might expect to find in each section.

Some volunteers trudged into the ‘forested areas’ to view a homeless camp either still populated or deserted, many still covered with remnants of an abandoned encampment. It was an enlightening experience.

At the end of the night, about 11 p.m. officers Garing and Hutson deemed it to be a ‘quiet night’, with only 19 counted in Section Five. These had been found on sidewalks, in a laundromat and in front of a 7-11 at a strip mall, also riding their bicycles and in an encampment. A total of ninety-three total homeless had been counted in the five mapped sections of Citrus Heights, also covering city parks, schools, the library, large and small businesses, parking lots and other public areas.

In an email following the count, Beckman said, “I was impressed by Sgt. Baldwin and the CHPD, and we certainly appreciated their support in operating a count for the Citrus Heights map areas.”

At the end of the night, on January 25, 70 mapped sections had been counted in the seven cities in the Sacramento County. Two hundred eighty-nine volunteers, put in 1,416 hours. The final statistics will be available later in the year.

Sources: City of Citrus Heights, Citrus Heights Police Department, Sacramento Steps Forward, HUD.