Sacramento County homeless count shows increase since 2011

Published: Sunday, Jun. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 - 8:43 am

A snapshot of Sacramento County's 2013 homeless population shows that the total number of people without permanent shelter increased by 180 individuals since a similar count was conducted two years ago.

Sacramento Steps Forward, a public-private partnership that aims to assist the county's homeless, released the 2013 Sacramento Countywide Homeless Count Report on Friday. The point-in-time homeless street count was conducted Jan. 24 and represents the people identified as homeless on that day.

The biennial count is conducted in accordance with federal Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines to qualify for approximately $15 million in Continuum of Care funding to assist homeless people.

Total homelessness, based on the day's count, was 2,538 in 2013, a 7.6 percent increase from 2,358 in 2011. Chronic homelessness increased by 79 people, or 22.4 percent, from 353 in 2011 to 432 in 2013.

The count tracks the total number of homeless people, the type of living situation and subpopulation characteristics, including the number of longtime disabled people, or chronically homeless.

"Our community must come together to mobilize resources and public will to combat the rise in homelessness in Sacramento," Benjamin Burton, executive director of Sacramento Steps Forward, said in a written statement. "The information collected from the 2013 count will provide us with important data to develop the next 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness."

Keith Hart, Sacramento Steps Forward's director of development, said the organization, along with the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, plans to seek community support this fall through its 2013 "one day to prevent homelessness campaign."

When last conducted in 2010, the campaign raised $400,000, which was used to leverage $2 million in federal housing funds, Hart said.

People were asked to give one day's worth of their monthly rent or mortgage to help homeless people in the community. Nearly 80 houses of worship participated in the campaign.

Hart said an effort also is under way to expand the winter sanctuary program to a year-round program. Between 20 and 30 faith congregations have provided overnight shelter on a rotating basis beginning on Thanksgiving weekend and continuing through the winter months.

Sacramento Steps Forward also launched two new initiatives this year. One aims to end youth homelessness within five years and targets young adults age 18 to 24.

Meeting the housing needs of this age group, the report said, would help interrupt cycles of poverty and eradicate chronic homelessness.

The other initiative aims to increase employment for people who are homeless so they will have the means to pay for permanent housing. To that end, Hart said, Sacramento Steps Forward will host an employment summit this fall.

The report suggests that efforts in recent years have had an effect. Although the 2013 count showed an increase in the number of homeless people from 2011, the 2013 figures were lower than those for 2009. Compared with 2009, total homelessness in Sacramento County decreased by 262 people, from 2,800, and chronic homelessness decreased by 36 people, from 468.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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