Nevada County data suggests grand jury’s assertion of homeless growth off mark |

Nevada County data suggests grand jury’s assertion of homeless growth off mark

There were fewer homeless people recorded in Nevada County in 2013 than there were in 2009 — but don’t tell that to the Nevada County Civil Grand Jury.

Their June report on “panhandlers, vagrants and transients” asserted that Nevada County’s homeless population was growing.

That statement was based on the testimony of an anonymous “expert” whose identity and qualifications were omitted from the report, and it doesn’t match up with data on file with the county.

According to Nevada County figures, the population fluctuates dramatically, but it may actually be smaller than it was five years ago.

The real recorded numbers indicate there were a total of 345 homeless individuals in 2009. Four years later in 2013 that number was down to 314 — and roughly 10 percent of them were United States military veterans. In 2011, the homeless population reportedly dipped to 189, meaning the number of homeless people in the community did grow between 2011 and 2013 — but apparently not to 2009 levels.

Over the last five years, however, records show Nevada County’s homeless population appears to have decreased slightly.

Those numbers are based on the Federal Homeless Count, which is conducted every other year. There are also point-in-time counts and head-counts from local shelters, but none of that data was referenced in the grand jury’s report.

Word of mouth, however, tells a different story. Hospitality House Director Cindy Maple and Janice O’Brien of Sierra Roots both say the homeless community is growing.

“Hospitality House is filled to the brim, and there are more families in need,” O’Brien said.

Homeless people also seem to agree that their numbers are growing. Moreover, they seem to agree with some of the grand jury’s conclusions about why that might be the case.

“If you feed them, they will come,” said Martin Lucas Butler, echoing the grand jury’s argument that the availability of services draws more homeless people to Nevada County.

Butler said he moved to Nevada County in 1993, and has been without permanent housing since 2003.

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email or call 530-477-4230.

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