Newsletter: L.A.’s homeless count begins

2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
Volunteer Barbara Petersmeyer, center, and Jerry Couch, right, with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, count homeless during a three-day 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count in Los Angeles.
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Jan. 21, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Beginning Tuesday evening, thousands of clipboard-carrying volunteers will embark on Los Angeles County’s annual three-day “point-in-time” count of the homeless population.

Over the next few days, volunteers will fan out across the expansive county to get a snapshot of L.A.’s sheltered and unsheltered homeless population, which remains one of the largest in the country.

The count is not unique to Los Angeles — the federal government mandates a comprehensive biennial census of the homeless population, and the point-in-time counts are typically conducted across the country in late January. (Los Angeles is one of many communities that chooses to conduct its count every year instead of just every other year.)

The results “are used by government officials to determine funding priorities for housing and services, and by the public to assess how much progress has been made on stemming the tide of homelessness,” as my colleague Ben Oreskes writes. They are typically released in May or June.

[Read the story: “L.A. County is counting homeless people this week. Here’s everything you need to know” in the Los Angeles Times]


The 2019 count found 58,936 homeless people living in Los Angeles County and 36,300 living in the city of Los Angeles, which marked a substantial increase from the year prior.

How to volunteer

Volunteers are needed to assist with the count. Shifts take about four hours and, as Curbed LA’s Alissa Walker writes, “even if you think you know how homelessness is affecting your neighborhood, [volunteering for the count] will likely change the way you view the crisis.”

You can sign up to volunteer on Tuesday (San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys), Wednesday (West L.A., Southeast L.A. and the South Bay) or Thursday (Metro L.A., South L.A. and the Antelope Valley) here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

How a major investigation into Orange County jail informants ended with a whimper: After a four-year investigation into the Orange County Sheriff’s Department ended with no explanation and no criminal charges in 2019, law enforcement officials and attorneys have begun to speak about some of the limits — and shortcomings — of the California attorney general’s office review of the case. Los Angeles Times


“My university is YouTube university. That’s how I learn everything.” Breakout art star Gabriela Ruiz plays with body and identity in her first solo show. Los Angeles Times

Gabriela Ruiz inside Rincon Taurino restaurant in Panorama City. Her solo show "Full of Tears" is at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

MLK Day: Thousands in L.A. attended the annual Kingdom Day Parade and volunteered for day-of-service events. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Those who live and work on L.A.’s Martin Luther King Boulevard reflect on King’s legacy. Los Angeleno


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to significantly speed up President Trump’s impeachment trial, offering rules that would shoehorn opening arguments into a grueling four-day period of 12-hour days, meaning a major part of the nation’s third-ever presidential impeachment trial could wrap up by the weekend. Los Angeles Times

Rep. Devin Nunes’ growing involvement in the Ukraine scandal isn’t hurting his local support. The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee hails from the Central Valley. Visalia Times Delta

Plus, who is the Nunes aide caught up in Ukraine texts, and will they hurt his boss? Derek Harvey, a retired Army colonel and aide to Nunes, exchanged dozens of text messages with indicted businessman Lev Parnas about efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. Fresno Bee

L.A.'s police union contributed $1 million to an anti-George Gascón political action committee. Gascón is trying to unseat incumbent Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey from the left on a platform of progressive reform. The Appeal

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The fall of Theranos has become “a massively expensive proposition” for Elizabeth Holmes, regardless of the outcome at her federal criminal trial later this year. Once the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire, the Stanford dropout now faces mounting legal bills alongside a possible 20-year prison sentence. Mercury News


More than 170 U.S. firefighters are helping their Australian counterparts battle the nation’s worst blazes ever, an assignment that requires adjustment to a new terrain, culture and lingo. Los Angeles Times

A mountain lion attacked a 3-year-old boy at an Orange County wilderness park. Shortly afterward, a sheriff’s deputy killed a mountain lion in the vicinity. Los Angeles Times


Victory for a group of housing activist moms in Oakland: A Redondo Beach-based housing speculator has agreed to sell one of its houses to a local trust on behalf of Moms 4 Housing, a group of homeless black women who were arrested last week after taking over the empty three-bedroom house with their children in an act of desperation and political protest. Los Angeles Times

Why some women are struggling with the process of obtaining Real IDs. “People across the state are reporting varying experiences with the Real ID process, and some frustrated applicants allege that the process is sexist, requiring additional effort and documentation from women who have changed their names after marriage or divorce.” Salinas Californian

Volunteers spent the weekend constructing an unapproved tiny home development in an Oakland median. The micro-development of 11 small homes could be bulldozed like other projects built without the city’s permission, but organizers hope it provides a blueprint for how to quickly provide transitional housing for Oakland’s homeless population. San Francisco Chronicle

Produce-industry pioneer and “Kiwi Queen” Frieda Caplan has died at 96. Caplan broke the glass ceiling in the testosterone-doused produce world and forever changed the way Americans eat fruits and vegetables. Los Angeles Times

Llamas and ostriches were taken from an exotic meat farm. Was it theft or a rescue? Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 65. San Diego: partly sunny, 63. San Francisco: rain, 56. San Jose: rain, 58. Sacramento: rain, 54. More weather is here.


A belated Tuesday edition of this week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Author Joseph Wambaugh (Jan. 22, 1937), former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (Jan. 23, 1953), former USC athletic director Pat Haden (Jan. 23, 1953), Rep. John Garamendi (Jan. 24, 1945), Rep. Mike Thompson (Jan. 24, 1951), San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (Jan. 24, 1967), California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra (Jan. 26, 1958), former L.A. Kings star Wayne Gretzky (Jan. 26, 1961), TV personality Ellen Degeneres (Jan. 26, 1958) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Jan. 26, 1965).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.