Head count expected to secure services

GLENDALE — Around noon on Wednesday, Glendale homeless services coordinator Ivet Samvelyan scanned a Vons parking lot for potential transients before spotting a man with a large backpack standing at a nearby bus stop.

Clutching a clipboard, she approached him and asked if he was without a permanent place to stay.

The man, who said he had been on and off the streets for several years, was at first hesitant to take part in the confidential survey with questions ranging from his birthday to whether he suffered from a drug or alcohol problem. But he opened up once Samvelyan explained his answers could help the city provide better services by targeting certain members of the homeless population.

"My responsibility as homeless coordinator is to say, 'These are the services we need,'" she told him.

Samvelyan was one of about a dozen homeless service providers and volunteers who fanned out across Glendale from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for an annual "point-in-time" count of transients within city limits.

The count on Wednesday focused on South Glendale — where most of the city's homeless reside — with volunteers stopping at city parks, libraries and street corners to make sure all transients were counted.

The results of the survey, officials said, will be key in helping the city secure additional funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support new homeless services.

"This is primarily for us to identify the gaps we have in our community," Samvelyan said.

After last year's survey counted 45 military veterans, the city was able to secure federal funds for a new housing program focused on vets, she said.

Last year's count showed a sharp increase in homeless in Glendale, which officials partially attributed to the return of the county-operated winter shelter program at the National Guard Armory.

In 2010, 428 homeless people were counted — compared to 258 in 2009, according to a city report.

With the winter shelter again located at the armory this year, officials said they expected similarly high numbers this year.

On Wednesday, volunteers received a wide range of greetings on the street. Some transients were talkative, eager to share information about their life on the streets, while others wanted little to do with the survey.

"Can you leave me alone?" a man sitting at the Glendale Chess Park said to Richard Younger, an outreach case manager with PATH Achieve Glendale, the city's main homeless service provider. The man and others who declined to answer the question were still counted for the survey.

The count was especially significant for PATH Achieve outreach case Mark Horvath, who was once homeless himself.

"Hopefully, through data like this, we can get more funding to house people," he said. "Because if we're not getting people off the streets, we're just maintaining homelessness."

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