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Jeff Bisaha, right, interviews one of the homeless men living along the Mojave River Thursday morning. San Bernardino County executed its Homeless survey to establish the size of the homeless population in the county.

Helping homeless exit life on the streets

Army of volunteers search for individuals during count

A small army of orange vested volunteers braved the cold and rain looking for homeless individuals during the one-day San Bernardino County 2013 Point-in-Time Homeless Count.

On Thursday morning, nearly 30 volunteers searched for sheltered and unsheltered individuals in places such as the Mojave River, the Village in Apple Valley and open fields in Hesperia.

Survey questions focused on gathering information, which include physical or developmental disabilities, chemical dependency or former military status.

During the search, volunteers spoke with a variety of individuals near the Mojave River.

Holding a metal kettle filled with coal and ashes, a homeless man in his late 20s, who identified himself as “Vito,” shared his method of staying warm with survey volunteers.

“I got drunk and threw myself on the bed last night,” said Vito, as volunteers attempted to explain the 16-question survey to him. “I don’t want to live like this.”

As they waded across the shallow river to find the homeless, a few volunteers found memorials to friends and family who died nearby.

In a raspy voice, Curtis House explained to volunteers how he was stabbed and his girlfriend nearly shot during a case of mistaken identity.

“She was laying down in the tent,” House said. “If she was sitting up, the guy would have shot her in the chest.”

Individuals and families living in supervised public or private shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels were also included in the survey.

Results of the survey, required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will help the county to determine how it develops strategies to help people exit life on the streets, and how to better serve the homeless community.

The county count is conducted every two years, and results of the survey will be available in April, according to the county. More information on the survey can be found online at

Rene De La Cruz may be reached at (760) 951-6227 or at

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