Homeless count provides vital information for service providers in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Homeless count provides vital information for service providers in Nevada County

A volunteer cuts hair during a Nevada County homeless count in 2013.

The Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras on Thursday will partner with local organizations to survey and count homeless people in Nevada County in an effort to determine the need for services in the area.

Volunteers at Thursday's "point-in-time" count will ask participants — who can remain anonymous — questions including their age, how long they've lived in Nevada County, why they live in the area, whether they've served in the military, whether they receive social services, and more.

According to Brendan Phillips, Nevada County's housing resource manager, the survey information will eventually be organized into a detailed report which provides vital information for local homeless advocacy organizations.

Debbie McDonald, development director for Hospitality House, the county's emergency homeless shelter, said the count is essential to her organization's work.

"The count gives us data to help understand and meet the needs of the homeless population in Nevada County," she said. "It also sets the bar for future grant funding opportunities."

The count this year is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at The Salvation Army, 10725 Alta St., Grass Valley.

Recommended Stories For You

BEYOND THE COUNTING

Participants are encouraged to stay for the duration of the event, which will include free food and music in a warm and welcoming environment, Phillips said.

Services for homeless people will be available during the count, including haircuts, legal aid and flu vaccinations.

After the event, organizations that work with homeless people will have 10 extra days to ask clients who were homeless on Thursday night whether they've already been counted, and, if not, add their information to the survey.

Volunteers will also count homeless on the streets Thursday night.

But despite the effort to survey every homeless person in Nevada County, Phillips said the "point-in-time" count — which is required biennially by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in communities around the country and conducted annually by the local Homeless Resource Council — doesn't provide an accurate number.

"It misses big, huge, gaping chunks of the puzzle," Phillips said. "Because it's one night."

BY THE NUMBERS

Phillips said many people choose not to participate in the count because of negative stigma surrounding homelessness. And people who are in jail, hospitals and motels Thursday night cannot be counted.

According to Phillips, doubling the number of people counted during a "point-in-time" tally gives a more accurate picture of how many homeless live in the community.

During last year's count, 371 people — 239 men and 131 women — were identified as being homeless in Nevada County on the last Thursday in January.

Of those counted, 195 reported they were sheltered that night and 176 reported they were unsheltered.

The count included 316 adults and 55 children. Twelve were veterans, 65 reported having substance abuse problems, and 106 reported having serious mental illnesses.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.