County officials are seeking volunteers to help count and interview the homeless in a survey designed to give them an idea of what is needed to keep people from winding up in a shelter or on the street.

The Point In Time Count, a countywide survey conducted every two years, helps officials determine San Bernardino County's homeless population, why people become homeless and why they stay homeless. It is required for service organizations to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The survey will take place for the Barstow area Jan. 27. Homeless in the Victor Valley and south of the Cajon Pass will be surveyed Jan. 26.

Last year the county's social service providers received more than $8 million from HUD as a result of the 2009 Point In Time Count, said Christy Hamilton, staff analyst with the San Bernardino County Office of Homeless Services. This is the third survey the county has participated in.

Volunteers will begin the survey at 9 p.m. — after most homeless shelters are closed — and will count and attempt to interview each person they see, Hamilton said. They will visit encampments and other areas where five or more homeless people stay. Local service providers and law enforcement identify these areas.

"People will be grouped, and the teams are three to each group," Hamilton said. "Training is mandatory. We want you to be aware of safety issues."

Some of the areas that the homeless congregate in is near McDonalds on East Main Street, under freeway overpasses, behind the outlet malls and on B Hill, said Sheri Randolph, executive director of Desert Manna Ministries, which will be participating in the survey.

Even though the survey helps figure out who is living on the streets and who is living in the shelters, Randolph said it doesn't count people who are staying in hotels or are sharing a house with another family.

Also the demographics of who is homeless have changed, Randolph said. Most people who are on the streets are white males between 18 and 29 years old, according to the county. But there are more families, including children, who are staying in hotels or with other relatives.

"We started to get fathers and husbands in the shelter and they were still married to their wives and had kids," she said. "All of a sudden I was hearing men talk about their wives and kids and not in the sense that they were divorced."

Clients and representatives of New Hope Village — Barstow's transitional housing program — will also be conducting the survey, said Executive Director Angela Pasco, who has participated since 2000. In addition to conducting the surveys New Hope's volunteers will be distributing hygiene kits and socks.

"We ask what caused your homelessness," Pasco said. "Actually a lot of it is drugs and alcohol and (lack of) employment."

Volunteers must be 18 years old and older. The training session for the Barstow area will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at the First Congregational Church at 220 North Second Avenue. For more information visit www.sbcounty.gov/sbchp or the Office of Homeless Services at 909-421-4680.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com