The point-in-time count for Nevada County’s homeless population ended over a month ago, and it will be over a month before results are sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The federally sponsored census helps identify the sheltered and unsheltered homeless population across Nevada County.
Brendan Phillips, the housing resource manager for Nevada County, said his staff is currently working to “de-duplicate” their count.
“We have so many providers,” Phillips said, referring to over 17 different agencies in the county that make up the county’s Continuum of Care.
According to HUD, California’s 44 Continuums of Care may be made up of representatives from nonprofit homeless providers, victim service providers, faith-based organizations, governments, businesses, advocates, public housing agencies, school districts, social service providers, mental health agencies, hospitals, universities, affordable housing developers, law enforcement, organizations that serve homeless and formerly homeless veterans and homeless and formerly homeless people.
“We’ve counted a number of people twice,” Phillips said. “It takes quite a while — two months, six-day time frame — to get the data right.”
Phillips said his team needs to ensure that all the data is correct before uploading it, submitting a report to HUD and publishing the results for local agencies to assess the problem as it changes.
“I can tell you, we had a successful count this year and engaged more partners than we’ve ever engaged with the entire youth system — the superintendent of schools, transitional age youth, foster youth — they helped us coordinate for the first time a broad base count,” he said.
According to Phillips, the robust group of agencies dedicated to offering the region’s transient population a Continuum of Care through varied social services was fortified with contributions from nonprofits dedicated to youth services.
“The way they quantify homelessness for youth — it’s hard to explain — but the main thing to understand is that there are different definitions at play,” Phillips said.
Phillips said although Nevada County maintains the transitory reputation it first established with back-to-landers in the 1970s, those living a generally bohemian lifestyle do not require the same public services.
“We have a history of migration to this county,” Phillips said. “Truckee has van lifers and tenement workers who come in to work at the ski ranches for the winters or summers — that happens. Certainly there are people who fall into those categories, but the PIT count is not meant to capture everyone in the situation.”
Phillips noted that there are some all-but-entirely self-sufficient homeless people in Nevada County who live on the ridge.
“I’ve gone out with my friends onto the deep ridge,“ Phillips said. ”There are people down there who are technically homeless, but (…) we can only measure the problem as it pertains to those who seek services.“
Phillips said although the numbers are not in, the collaborations between partnering agencies indicate a marked increase in the homeless population over the last decade.
“Homelessness has been on the rise since 2009-2010,” Phillips said. “That’s when the county started participating in the Continuum of Care — there’s more of this constant need to connect.”
The last time HUD tallied the homeless this way — January 2020 — the agency estimated 161,000 Californians were homeless. According to the report, 2020 marks the first year that the number of self-reporting homeless living out of shelter outnumbered the homeless population in sheltered.
The report also found homelessness increased in more than half of the nation’s states from 2019 to 2020, with the largest absolute increase — 6,994 people — in California.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com