by Amelia Anderson
Tuesday, January 24, was a dark and dreary night, cold and wet from weeks of downpour. Lights blazed through windows of North Valley City Hall. Activity bustled as folks set up tables and chairs, clipboards and maps. A man looked at his watch. “Close to eight. Think they’ll show?” Peggy threw back her head in laughter. “Of course. This is Tujunga, not Beverly Hills!”
Twenty eight fresh-faced volunteers kept their date to assist with the Sunland-Tujunga Homeless Count mandated by HUD. Oscar Polanco sprang to his feet in greeting and seriousness prevailed. A Program Supervisor for LAHSA, he knew Los Angeles Housing Service Authority programs for the homeless were dependent on government funding by the count.
The teacher in Peggy Ryder took command. A volunteer Homeless Advocate, this was her fourth year working with L.A. Family Housing to provide structure for our town’s most pressing problem. From Lady of Lourdes, she is Lady of Mercy, whisking from the street those in greatest need to shelter, medical care and rehabilitation”. She is a Fearless Leader,” an honorary title bestowed upon her by John Horn, V-P of L.A. Family Housing.
Sixteen parcel maps were passed out to teams. Each car had a driver and a counter like Linda Fores, dressed in yellow vest to plot encampment. There was even a security officer that coordinated the Homeless Help Police Protection. Eric Montoya counted the Wash earlier in the day, as Pattee Colvin did in Sunland Park. Dr. David DeMulle’ donated six hundred-plus pairs of socks “cause their feet get cold!” Richard Thomas slapped magnetic signs on cars just as Hrant Vartzbedian, newly elected board member of the S-T Neighborhood Council, rushed in to ask, “What can I do for you?” An automobile needed a jump which he quickly performed — starting us into the night.
Midnight at city hall, Peggy proclaimed all volunteers to be “Wonderful!” Oscar noted freezing temperature made it easier to count car windows frosted by breath of sleeping town-folk. “So, why do volunteers count?” Out of concern for their fellow man. They’d like to do more, but most work or have families. Peggy’s thought, “If everyone does a little, it goes a long way.”