Homelessness count ticks up
Nobody really knows how many people are homeless in Nevada County, but the annual point-in-time count indicates homelessness is rising.
The known number of homeless people increased by 112 from 415 in 2019 to 527 in this year, according to the 2022 count released Thursday by the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras.
There is no one specific factor to explain the increase, said Ryan Gruver, director of the Health and Human Services Agency for Nevada County.
“I would caution over-interpreting the increase,” he said. “We do our best to count as many people as possible, and the extraordinary progress we’ve made on sheltering people means we’re counting more people than ever before.”
Nevada County is not the only area showing higher counts.
“That’s not to say the numbers aren’t increasing,” he conceded. “From what I’ve heard, most jurisdictions that have released their counts have seen significant increases.”
County Housing Director Mike Dent confirmed the homeless surge across the state.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: “The Continuum of Care program promotes community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness. The program provides funding for efforts by nonprofit providers and state and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness.”
Local stakeholders would take issue with the word “quickly.” The Nevada County Regional Continuum of Care is a slow-moving, deliberative body wedged in the multi-layered bureaucracy of federal funding.
Even though there is an increase in homelessness, the good news is that there has been a substantial increase in the number of homeless people who are sheltered and only a slight decrease in the number of unsheltered adults, according to the preliminary point in time count.
Sheltered adults went up from 164 in 2019 to 284 in 2022. Unsheltered people went down from 251 in 2019 to 243 in 2022.
More alarming is the 48% increase in the number of people reporting first-time homelessness. In 2019, it was 135. In 2022, it was 200.
The point in time count is not a complete assessment of the county’s homeless population. That’s because some people don’t want to be counted, some don’t know there is a count, and some don’t consider themselves homeless. Therefore, the true number of homeless folks is unknown.
Nevertheless, the count is critical.
“The point in time count drives funding from HUD,” Gruver said.
Tom Durkin is a freelancer with The Union and a member of its editorial board
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