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Preliminary Results from the 2016 Homeless Count


Preliminary Results from the 2016 Homeless Count

Preliminary results from the 2016 Homeless Count indicate continuing progress in reducing homelessness. 

• A total of 2,844 persons were found to be homeless by federal guidelines –living in a place not meant for habitation or in a shelter—in a 24-hour period.

• This number is an 8% decrease from the Count conducted a year ago, and follows on successive decreases since a high mark of 4,539 persons in 2011.

• 916 people (one-third of the total) were living in shelters or transitional housing for the homeless, and 1,906 were living in unsheltered locations.

• 390 people (13.7%) were in homeless families with children. More families with children were documented as a result of new collaborations with school districts.

• 2,334 persons were single adults over the age of 24, of whom 699 were chronically homeless.  The number of chronically homeless persons is virtually unchanged from a year ago.

• The number of homeless veterans has increased since last year, to 274. Veterans make up 10% of the homeless population.

• The total number of homeless youth appears to be down slightly from a year ago. 

• The number of people experiencing homelessness on any given night is down to 5.7 per 1,000 residents, but this is still three times the national average.

Even though the number of people experiencing homelessness on any given night is dropping, homeless people seem to be more visible these days. This could be because of more focus on the issue in general, and also because people have been displaced from longstanding hiding places, like the railroad tracks. People have been pushed out in public in areas we never saw them before. Analysis over the next couple of months will aim to provide more understanding of this issue.

Additionally, the recent trend of increased rents and evictions do not yet show in the homeless data. We may yet see increases in the next couple of years: people who became homeless due to foreclosure during the 2008 crisis did not show up on the street until 2011. 

Homeless services in Sonoma County are now structured to drive down the rate of homelessness, with enough Rapid Re-Housing resources and permanent supportive housing to house people more quickly than new people become homeless. This underscores how critical it is to protect key shelters and rapid re-housing programs that are under threat following changes in State regulations.

There are still over 1,900 people living outside on any given night. That number is slowly going down, but it is a very large number.

Homelessness is a complex problem, and it will not easily be solved, but we are beginning to solve it. These preliminary homeless count numbers represent the third successive decline in overall homelessness since the worst impacts of the recession. The total number of homeless persons on a given night is down 37% from 2011 and 8% from 2015. About 200 more vulnerable homeless persons have been housed since this count through the Dream Center and the Palms Inn projects, which opened after the Count was conducted. 



The interesting sidebar "Preliminary Results from the 2016 Homeless Count" includes the comment, "homeless people seem to be more visible these areas we never saw them before."  It went on to say that "analysis...will aim to provide more understanding of this issue."

I can save the trouble of any further analysis.  The count figures do NOT accurately reflect the homeless population.  The government guidelines, slapdash methods of the out of town contractors tasked with the tabulations and the elusiveness of those being counted have made the results ridiculously inaccurate.  Take it from someone who has been involved in helping the homeless for over 20 years, worked at over a dozen permanent and temporary shelters in SR and Guerneville, and was involved with the homeless count since its inception (before it was farmed out to the contractors):  Believe your eyes, not these figures so positively portrayed by a well-meaning writer.  If your hometown looks like Calcutta on a bad day, your eyes don't lie.  There are people living under every bridge in the County, as well as along all the lovely streams and rivers, bespoiling the environment. Tents line the trails along Hwy 12.  Sadly, not enough substantial progress has been made to prevent this population explosion of the unfortunate dispossessed. Don't believe anyone that tells you otherwise. 

Sam Barnhart, Occidental