As the sun prepares to rise on Thursday, hundreds of volunteers will begin dispersing around Clark County for a one-day mission to find out how many homeless people there are throughout the valley.
According to Michelle Fuller-Hallauer, Clark County Human Services Manager, on foot and by car, volunteers will try to get through every shelter, street, tunnel, bike path and wilderness.
Data collected from Southern Nevada’s annual multi-jurisdictional homeless census is included in the comprehensive report required to receive federal dollars to pay for programs and services to combat this problem. “We can meet them where they are,” Fuller-Hallauer said.
That figure is more than $15 million in annual federal funding, according to the county.
The 2022 census numbered 5,645 people, Fuller-Hallauer said, but that didn’t count the nearly 14,000 people who are believed to have been homeless at some point during the year. Thursday’s count will only be a “snapshot” or a “moment in time,” she added.
To do the job right, the county needs 600 volunteers, although officials were short of that number on Tuesday.
Those interested in getting involved are encouraged to visit helphopehome.org/homeless-census.
The shift starts at 5 a.m. and volunteers can select multiple starting points, the district said.
Volunteers are conducting short surveys to gather demographic information and determine why people are homeless and what can be done to put them on the right track, Fuller-Hallauer said. It helps to inform how to use the programs.
The census began in 2017 and the number of homeless people found has steadily declined from 2017 to 2021, but there was a slight increase in 2022. Fuller-Hallauer said.
The COVID-19 emergency could have left thousands of people undercounted in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, Las Vegas and state officials said in October of that year. For every person unaccounted for, there is about $20,000 in federal funding given to another state.
As inflation makes housing unaffordable for some, this year “it will be interesting to see how rent increases affect our community,” Fuller-Hallauer said.
Work on next year’s census begins almost immediately, she said, taking about six months to prepare.
Fuller-Hallauer worked on every census.
“I will not stop this work until we can say we have a system that can truly meet the needs of each of our Southern Nevada neighbors who are experiencing a housing crisis,” she said. “We can meet their needs and prevent it if possible.”
Anyone over the age of 14 can become a volunteer. Minors of senior school age must be accompanied by an adult and remain for the entire shift, which is due to end in the afternoon.
Recordings and face-to-face training are available before they are sent to teams of three or four, the organization says, which will teach volunteers how to prepare, how to count and how to use tools.
“If you come yourself, no problem!” the organization wrote in its call for volunteers. “You will be paired with other volunteers.”