09 Feb Part of Something Greater
Part of Something Greater
by Andrew Frastaci, Marketing & Communications Associate
As they drove towards Terasaki Budokan, the Downtown LA deployment site for the Homeless Count, Kyle Tsujimoto and Tommy Klein tried to picture the night ahead of them. Despite being regular volunteers at the Budokan facility, this was their first time participating in the annual Homeless Count.
Kyle’s internship and Tommy’s volunteer basketball scorekeeping brought them to Budokan multiple times a month to interact with youth and community members during the daytime. But tonight, the sporting facility they were used to seeing had been transformed into a hub of staff and volunteers in fluorescent vests with clipboards. The two settled into their station, greeting and checking volunteers in. Then, Kyle and Tommy were deployed to count in the census tract containing Crypto.com Arena. Having never participated in the Homeless Count before, the two drove towards the Arena with some doubts in mind. “I knew a Laker game was also happening. I thought, ‘I don’t feel like we’ll be able to maneuver that well,’” Tommy shared.
Slightly daunted by the high traffic area full of shoppers and Laker fans, the pair began their task of visually counting unhoused people. And soon, their expectations changed. “In those areas, I didn’t necessarily expect to count that many people,” Kyle said, “But, I think when we were really paying attention to it, we were able to start to identify people instead of them falling into the shadows.” The act of counting lifted a veil, opening their eyes to the often ignored reality of homelessness permeating everyday scenes. Kyle realized that his contribution was a “big part of a larger project,” with Tommy adding that it’s important to “collect data to get proper help” to these areas.
The annual Homeless Count, organized by LAHSA, provides a point-in-time count of the unhoused population in LA County. The crucial data collected informs County services and funding to better address the homelessness crisis. LTSC’s Budokan deployment site covers the densely populated Downtown area, making it one of the most active sites. LTSC staff member Avalon Igawa coordinated over 70 volunteers to count 25 census tracts over 2-3 hours. Volunteers from local nonprofit staff (like LTSC), interested individuals (like Kyle and Tommy) and even city, state, and federal public officials (like Undersecretary for Veteran Affairs Dr. Shereef Elnahal) all banded together to make a difference.
After returning from the count, Kyle and Tommy felt glad they were able to contribute to the neighborhood’s homeless services. “I think it was good to feel the community coming together, you know, meeting a lot of new people and talking to them, learning about why they were here, and just seeing everyone’s energy was really great. It really inspired us,” Kyle said. “It felt like we were part of something greater, and part of something that mattered. Hopefully more people will try to come [to the Homeless Count].”