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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

DuFay Critiques the Homeless Count and the Survey

Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister, has the most often quoted definition of statistics. “There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

Mark Twain made it all a little less abrupt by saying, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”

Venetian Darryl DuFay says, “Information must be believable and verifiable if you are about to spend billions of dollars based on it.”

Darryl DuFay, armed with the 82-page 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count Methodology, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) 2016 Homeless Count, and 2016 Homeless Training Guide has tried to translate numbers to situations or circumstances or has tried to make sense of what all these numbers mean. He has concerns.

By Darryl DuFay

First my concerns
1. We need two categories added to the Demographic Surveys. One category for “transients/travelers/ vacationers,” and the other for “service and shelter resistant.” This is critical information for Venice. Anecdotal responses by those familiar and interacting with the homeless place these aspects of “homeless” at the top of our list. There is great skepticism of the count information.

2. The discussion of homeless is complex, frustrating and very emotional. Much too often there cannot be a civil discussion. Any questioning of any aspect is immediately met with invectives that terminate the discussion. Hopefully, LAHSA will demonstrate an acknowledgment that there are aspects of homeless, such as above, that are worthy to have. While this churning issue is a wonderful political world to operate in, the homeless and the rest of us suffer.

3. The volunteers for the Street Count are to be thanked for their efforts. However, the constraints on the count and the experience needed as a counter, even with seasoned assistance, make the count number arguable.

4. In a critical, compacted community such as Venice, with a high number of “homeless,” weak and unverified information encourages the misuse or misdirection of resources and effort to assist those that need help the most.

The 2016 Count Itself
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) from January to March conducted this countywide count. It has four components: a Street Count, separate Demographic Surveys for Adults and Youths, and a Sheltered Count. The Youth Survey is sometimes referred to as the Youth Count.

The Street Count
They only count people, vehicles, and enclosures. No questions are asked. This is called a point-in-time count. On day, one time. Venice was counted on Wednesday, January 27 by volunteers, 18 years or older. At 8 pm. the volunteers received one hour of information along with training. They count while in a car or by walking. They use a tract map as a guide. There are eleven tracts in Venice. Driving is preferred in Venice. In the cars there is a driver, navigator, and one or two counters. The counters’ decisions are final, no discussion

The count is totally observational. You see! You record! Remember: “Don’t disturb anyone.” They look for signs of “homelessness” by appearance, behavior, and condition.

They write down the number of vehicle/enclosures — car, van, camper, tent, or make shift shelter. To identify “homeless” vehicles they look for vehicles in disrepair, parked by similar vehicles, fogged up windows, packed with belongings, or lights on inside.
People on the streets are also counted if they show signs of homelessness by their appearance, behavior, or condition.

“People Information” is gathered for adults over 18 and youths under 18. By sex, male, female, or gender unknown. By families– the number of adults; youth –the number and sex.

Observations at night are difficult because the flashlight they carry can only be used to illuminate their clipboards and never pointed in the direction of the person.

Note: If they can’t see, they can’t count! Also of interest is that all the photos showing homeless in the “Power Point” Street Count Training information were taken in the daytime, while the count is taken at night.

Demographic Surveys: Adult and Youth
The Demographic Survey is the time to confront and ask questions. It is a face-to-face, multiple-choice survey where the surveyor asks the question and writes down the answer. The Adult survey is four-pages and thirty-five questions. The Youth survey is nine-pages and forty-four questions. The surveys diverge only in that the questions for the Youth are oriented towards their age and life styles. This is a new survey.

Adult Survey: Only a 20 percent “sample” of “homeless” people is counted from 409 of the City of Los Angeles 2,053 census tracts. It was conducted countywide by LAHSA between January 15th and March 4, 2016. Time taken, unknown. Total data obtained was from 4,851 persons.

Youth Survey: Samples of census tracts were selected for an independent survey by the LAHSA’s youth team. The select tracts were assigned from three classifications for youths. “Youths were considered eligible if they were under 25 years of age and live on the streets or in areas unfit for human habitats….” How they were selected is not clear. Maybe just walking the tracts looking for “homeless” looking or acting. The survey date(s) and time of day taken are unknown but assumed to have occurred within the other survey/count dates. There is likely an undercount of the youthful population.

Review of the Surveys
They asks wide-ranging questions involving age, homelessness, race, veteran, medical history, employment, family, etc. No proof of identity is asked for. There are no names, only three initials are allowed. For Health questions about Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Physical Disability, Chronic Health Issues, etc. no proof is required.

For taking the survey, you get a McDonald’s or Subway Card. Adults get $5, Youths $10. The surveys differ slightly at the start. Adults are asked if the person is homeless or in need of housing. If the answer is no, the surveyor goes to the end of the survey. Youth are asked if they want to take the Survey, their age, if 25 or older not eligible, and if they have taken the Youth Count survey this week. A second set of questions determines if they have been in a hotel, prison, home, shelter, during the past 30 days, if yes, they go to end of survey. All others take the full survey.

One area at the end of the survey is interesting and troublesome. It says: “Surveyor, did you observe/detect symptoms of the following:” Serious Health Conditions, Mental Illness, Alcohol or Drug Abuse, or No Observation. A person taking the survey already answered Health so don’t know if the end of survey applies or is just a double check, or gathering information for the person who did not complete the survey.

There are additional questions at the end of the Youth survey for the Surveyor to assess, “…what initially led you/your team to identify this young person as homeless? “
Sheltered Count

Taken during the three days of the Street Count from Jan 26-28. Surveyors go to the sheltered buildings. The City of Los Angeles sheltered homeless population is 11,073 and 30,393 unsheltered. Venice has 18 sheltered and 871unsheltered. The Venice sheltered are located in tract 273200.

Comments (2)

  1. Anonymous

    Yes, a book report on a book of suppositions based on unsubstantiated information gathered in a very unscientific manner… But this is the way 501c3 nonprofits build the cases for their funding… I have no idea what they collect today, but at one time St Joseph Center collected over $13,000,000 a year to get 4 people into low level food service jobs and enable an ever expanding homeless population that they said that they could do little with because they were underfunded. Anyone ask to see their books lately??? How about the other local nonprofits???

  2. Alvin

    Still waiting for the critique. This is more like a book report.

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