Monday, May 2, 2011

Interviewing Tropico's Homeless at 4am

This morning I volunteered with PATH Achieve Glendale for Glendale Registry Week. Registry Week is a census of the homeless population within the city of Glendale designed to identify the chronically homeless individuals who are most vulnerable. Once they've been identified, resources can be targeted specifically towards getting those individuals into housing. It is part of the 100K Homes Project, which you can read more about here. How do you count homeless people? You divide the city into a grid, break up into teams, and walk and drive around until you see them...from 4-6am in the morning.

Registry Week leader Becky briefs us at 4am.

At first I thought that seemed extremely early, but after seeing the streets at that hour, I now see that by 5:30am most of the homeless in the area already are waking up and heading out for the day. Once we found an apparently homeless individual, one or two of us gently approached them and woke them up, asked them if they would participate in our survey...and by the way they would get a small McDonald's gift card at the end. The survey takes about ten minutes and includes questions about how long they've been on the street, health problems, etc, and at the end we take a picture of them so that the information can be entered into a database and outreach professionals can find them in the future.

Volunteers get caffeinated courtesy of Glendale First Baptist Church and munch on donated pastries and bagels from Panera Bread in Burbank.

My team was led by Sergeant John Gilkerson from the Glendale Police Department, and consisted of myself, Ron, Eddie, another John, and intrepid embedded reporter Emily. In a happy coincidence, the area our team was assigned to cover just happened to be Tropico - my exact neighborhood; including the block where I live. We started by driving down San Fernando and didn't see anyone immediately. I suggested heading over to Vons on Central, where I have frequently seen a homeless man in one particular spot. As we headed over, the thought crossed my mind that the one time we are specifically LOOKING for the homeless would be the one time we wouldn't see any. We didn't see the guy I was thinking of at Vons, but found another apparently homeless man on a bus bench. We parked in the Vons parking lot, made our approach, and the guy wouldn't talk to us at all, he just walked across Los Feliz to another bus stop on the other side of the street and appeared to have mental issues. I tried to cross Los Feliz to approach him again, and he just crossed the street again. We marked him as a refusal. A disappointing start! With no other homeless people in sight, we started walking around looking for less obvious hiding places. We quickly found a homeless man in an alley, and he was our first interview.

Emily and Ron conduct an interview.

While Sgt John, Ron, and Emily interviewed him, Eddie, other John and I set out on foot to see if we could find anyone else. I spotted a nook across San Fernando where I thought I saw movement. We approached and found two people, a man and a woman.

John and Eddie make a successful approach.

John and Eddie made a successful approach and I continued walking around the industrial area between San Fernando and the train tracks looking for individuals (and bravely tweeting). In an hour and a half of looking, we found 6 people within a mere block and a half radius of Los Feliz and Central. Here are some pictures from this morning's efforts. I also tweeted about the experience here, and you can follow the efforts of the other volunteers on Twitter by using the hashtag #100khomes. The count continues Tuesday and Wednesday, so I'll be up at 3:30am tomorrow.

Click to view large. Pink x's are refusals, red x's are successfully completed surveys.

Our stats at the end of the morning. I am on Team Rex.

*Update: My account of days two and three of the homeless vulnerability survey is now up here.

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