Nevada County works toward fighting homelessness | TheUnion.com
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Nevada County works toward fighting homelessness

John Orona
Staff Writer

In January, the County Executive Office will release its strategic plan on homelessness, bridging together existing plans with future efforts that are supposed to create a comprehensive framework of the county’s attempts to reduce homelessness going forward.

It’s an indicator of how important fighting homelessness is for Nevada County, along with its other 10-year plans and the Board of Supervisors’ priority objectives, which include tackling homelessness through a housing first policy.

Based on these plans and proclamations, homelessness is no longer an issue of raising awareness or gathering support, but of strategic and systemic action.

“Homelessness is a complex and challenging problem that crosses jurisdictional boundaries,” CEO Alison Lehman said in an email. “In Nevada County we are fortunate to have a strong nonprofit sector, community advocates, and elected officials partnering together to address the issue of homelessness head on. As a community, we know we can do more together.

“We have strategic plan, 10-year plan,” she added. “This is our most comprehensive plan that gives direction for staff to follow.”

During the last point-in-time homeless count, Nevada County saw an uptick of individuals and families experiencing homelessness, from 271 people in 2018 to more than 400 this year.

The increase may have been caused by greater and more effective outreach efforts, or due to particularly low numbers during the last homeless count, but even with more accurate numbers it’s likely that the number is still an underestimate of the homeless population, simply due to methodology.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mandated point-in-time homeless count is used to help determine funding for homeless prevention programs, but the count only captures those homeless people spotted during the last 10 days of January and does not attempt to count people in jails, hospitals, rapid rehousing programs or living with friends or relatives. It’s also unclear whether the homeless count would have the resources to count the homeless population in the vast expanse of Nevada County’s many rural areas.

Since 2009, the number of people experiencing homelessness as determined by HUD’s homeless count has fluctuated significantly, sometimes settling at just under 200 housing insecure people but steadily hovering at about 311 homeless people counted.

According to the most recent homelessness data, those experiencing homelessness in Nevada County are most likely to have lived in the county for at least a year prior to being homeless, and are likely to be staying in the county due to familial ties.

Since last year, the percentage of the homeless population who were unsheltered grew 5% and 10 more families became homeless, bringing the total to 28.

Of the 410 homeless people counted this year, 21% surveyed had serious mental illness and 34% chronically experienced homelessness, facing four or more bouts of homelessness in a four-year period or having been homeless for more than a year.

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the leading causes of homelessness are due to a lack of affordable housing options and poverty, followed by mental health or substance abuse issues coupled with a lack of needed services to combat those issues.

RESOURCES

Since July, Nevada County has been operating a Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement team, or HOME, which provides case management services and coordinates with other agencies to provide medical and housing resources. Since the first two months of its inception, HOME has engaged 63 people, with eight receiving medical engagement, 14 placed into treatment, and seven receiving recovery residencies. To reach the HOME team, call 530-470-2686 or email home@co.nevada.ca.us.

Other resources available to Nevada County residents experiencing housing insecurity are listed below:

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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