The Kern County Homeless Collaborative is seeking 500 volunteers to participate in the annual countywide point-in-time homeless count taking place the morning of Jan. 24.

“This count provides us with crucial information about a vulnerable population that is too often victimized and villainized,” PIT Committee Chair Jan Lemucchi said in a news release. “This annual event helps service providers, faith ministries, and government agencies to strategically address the needs of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Last year our community stepped up big time with over 400 people participating. We want to improve on that this year.”

This year’s homeless count revealed a 50 percent increase in the county’s homeless population compared to the previous year. The increase occurred in part because the city and county recruited more volunteers than previous years.

The point-in-time count is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development process to determine how much federal funding communities receive to tackle homelessness.

“Strong volunteer turnout benefits the community by ensuring annual funding that provides crucial housing and supportive services for Kern County,” Tina Posey, housing administrator at the Housing Authority of the County of Kern, said in the release.

Each volunteer will be asked to attend a two-hour training session to cover safety and best practices. Those trainings will be offered several times in January throughout Kern County.

Registration is open at kc2020pit.eventbrite.com.

If volunteers have questions, they can contact Valerie D. Rodriguez, Homeless Projects Assistant at United Way of Kern County at valerie.r@uwkern.org or 661-834-2734.