Homeless in Manhattan Beach get counted
by Emma Lehman
Two dozen volunteers with flashlights and wearing reflective vests fanned out across Manhattan Beach Wednesday evening to count the town’s homeless. The annual count was part of a countywide program coordinated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.
The results of Wednesday’s count are expected to be released in June. In 2020, volunteers found 15 homeless in Manhattan Beach, 28 in Hermosa Beach and 176 in Redondo Beach. Countywide, 54,291 homeless were counted.
George Gabriel, Assistant to the City Manager, addressed the volunteers at the Joslyn Community Center prior to Wednesday evening’s count.
“Our goal is to get a point-in-time snapshot of homelessness in our community,” he said. “With this count, we can better assess what kinds of resources we need in Manhattan Beach.”
Gabriel said the city has a four-pronged approach to the issue: public safety, mental health resources, community outreach, and community engagement.
In previous years, volunteers used pen and paper to record their findings. This year, they used the Akito Connect application on their smartphones. The new app was developed specifically to help LAHSA volunteers track the homeless.
“The LAHSA Homeless Count is important to understanding homelessness in our community,” Mayor Hildy Stern told the volunteers. “And also to provide unhoused people with the resources they need to get back on their feet.”
Councilmember Joe Franklin expressed his appreciation to the volunteers.
“It’s wonderful to see so many faces this year,” he said.
Most volunteers at the event had a personal or professional interest in the unhoused community.
“It really started when I met my husband on 6th and Main [in Downtown],” Manhattan Beach resident Elissa Unton said. “We’re both passionate about addressing hunger and hygiene among those experiencing homelessness.”
Unton and her husband volunteer at the Skid Row Community ReFresh Spot, a collection of trailers in Downtown Los Angeles that provides the unhoused with toilets, showers, and laundry facilities.
“It’s so sad to see,” said Enice Kramer, a former Manhattan Beach finance director. “Especially in Redondo, because it’s a little larger than Manhattan and Hermosa. I see it everywhere. You’re riding the bus, taking public transportation, even just driving around, and it becomes clear that this is a huge issue.”
Kramer previously worked with a social justice law firm in Silicon Valley. She has volunteered with the LAHSA count in Manhattan Beach for three years. “I like to do what I can,” she said. “We need so many more resources, and we need people to come together to help.”
Unton agreed. “Sure, it’s great to have programs, but the most important thing is community outreach, donations, and funding. The only way these things will work is if they are publicly available to people, and supported by the community. That means financially, but also with events like the Homeless Court in Redondo Beach.” ER