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Count reveals homeless numbers

Group of mostly students from Vanguard University hit the streets of Costa Mesa to tabulate chronically homeless population. Parks are most concentrated.

September 24, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

Costa Mesa is home to more than 100 chronically homeless people, according to preliminary results of a citywide count done during the past two days by Vanguard University and the nonprofit group Mercy House.

About 75 volunteers, mostly students from Vanguard, including the university’s baseball team, headed out in cars, on foot and on bicycle to search for homeless people living in riverbeds and under freeway overpasses.

“I hope we can use some of the information we collect to benefit them,” said Vanguard baseball player Eric Krzysiak.

Krzysiak estimates he rode five miles through local parks Thursday morning, where he spotted four homeless people. He and a few of his fellow baseball players persuaded the entire team to pitch in for the effort.

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“People really can make a difference. I feel like we’re helping the community by doing this,” said Vanguard baseball player Brandon Godfrey, who also participated in the count.

The project is the first comprehensive attempt to count Costa Mesa’s chronically homeless population, said Larry Haynes, executive director of Mercy House, which offers programs to prevent homelessness and transitional housing to people trying to get off the streets in Orange County and Ontario.

“A lot of the times people’s perception of a problem and its extent or nonexistence depends on ideology,” Haynes said. “Now we have facts, and it’s not a left thing or a right thing. What we do with those facts now as a community is the issue.”

Volunteers counted four preschool-aged children living on the streets of Costa Mesa during the count, along with numerous people sleeping in city parks and in their cars. During Wednesday night’s count, volunteers saw the heaviest concentrations of homeless people in Schiffer, TeWinkle and Lions parks, and clusters between Fairview Road and Harbor Boulevard.

Organizers hope the effort will result in an accurate estimate of the number of homeless people in the city and identify their needs to help eliminate homelessness.

More volunteers, including athletes from Vanguard’s soccer team, will head out next week to do more counts.

“The data we have collected is fresh data and has the potential to tell us who is out on the streets and what their needs are,” said Ed Clarke, chairman of the department of anthropology and sociology at Vanguard.

Clarke has headed up efforts at the university to conduct the count.

Vanguard and Mercy hope to conduct more detailed surveys of the chronically homeless in Costa Mesa over the next year.


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