Malibu Volunteers Turn Out for 2018 Homeless Count

A homeless man sits on a bench at the Malibu Colony Plaza.

For the fourth year in a row, Malibu joined the rest of the county, state and U.S. to count the number of homeless people in the community. The two local “deployment coordinators” of the count were Bianca Torrence, a founding member of CART (Community Assistance Resource Team), and Jay Scott, Chair of the Malibu Task Force on Homelessness (MTFH).

Torrence said in a phone interview that approximately 39 volunteers showed up for the orientation meeting held last Thursday around 5 a.m. at Our Lady of Malibu Church. They included people from Pepperdine University, the Malibu Rotary Club, The People Concern, CART, State Assemblyman Richard Bloom’s office, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office, the Hilton Foundation, MTFH, the Veteran’s Administration, the City of Malibu, State Parks, the National Park Service and the LA County Sheriff’s Department. 

The counts are usually held at night or very early morning when the homeless are still assumed to be sleeping and aren’t up and moving around yet. 

A representative from Los Angeles Homeless Services Imitative (LAHSA) also showed up for the count—this is the joint LA County and City organization that serves as lead agency for the count, and provides millions of dollars in funding to help homeless people.

Local Maggie Luckerath helped put together about a dozen groups of two, three and four people who were then assigned to count the homeless in a particular area of Malibu. 

“I was happy to see a lot of repeat people,” she said. 

Some areas involved counting from the car, while other areas involved getting out on foot. The sheriff’s deputies and rangers tend to take the more difficult areas to access on foot, in canyons with thick brush.

Volunteer Yvonne Gelbman said this was her second year of volunteering for the count. 

“It was easy this year compared to last year,” she said. “This time, we just stayed in the car and drove up and down a bunch of canyons, and we found two homeless who were really up high. Last year, we had to walk Zuma Beach, Westward Beach and Trancas, looking through the bushes.

“It was a great experience and I enjoyed it,” Gelbman said. “I appreciate the opportunity to do something for our Malibu homeless.”

The count does not involve disturbing or disrupting homeless people. 

“They’re visual counts using our own judgment as to who looks homeless,” Scott said. “There are no conversations with people.” 

The count follows HUD definitions of homelessness, which include people living in places not meant for human habitation such as cars, parks, sidewalks and empty buildings.

Torrence said there weren’t quite as many volunteers this year as last year, but she very much appreciates the efforts of everyone who came out. The official results of the count won’t be released to the public for several months, but in 2016 Malibu had 161 homeless, and in 2017, that number increased to 180. The increase mirrors the results of just about every other town and city in the area, including the city of Los Angeles. And Torrence said most of the other deployment coordinators she’s talked to agree that the count probably undercounts by 20 percent.

Even though the two full-time outreach workers that MTFH hired from The People Concern just to work in Malibu have had excellent results getting the local homeless into housing, people are becoming homeless faster than housing can be obtained. In an LA Times article from last week, downtown social workers said that most of the new homeless they talked to had recently been evicted by landlords raising the rents to a level they couldn’t afford.

Coffee for the Malibu volunteers was donated by Vintage Grocers and the Cross Creek Starbucks, and homemade cranberry muffins were donated by Kousha Harirchian, the manager of that Starbucks.