County Releases 2017 Homeless Point in Time Count
Author: Laurel Weir, Homeless Services Coordinator, Department of Social Services
11/10/2017 8:00:00 AM
The County has released the results of the 2017 Homeless Point in Time Count report.
A new report indicates that investments in homeless services may be working to reduce homelessness in San Luis Obispo County, especially among veterans. However, a growing housing shortage continues to be an obstacle to overcoming homelessness.
The number of homeless persons in SLO County has decreased by 26 percent and the number of homeless veterans has decreased by 38 percent since 2015, according to the 2017 Homeless Census Survey and Report released today by the County of San Luis Obispo. County Homeless Services Coordinator Laurel Weir attributes the decline in the number of homeless veterans to the increases in housing resources for veterans in San Luis Obispo County.
“Over the past two years alone, over 154 homeless veterans have been housed in the county, and over 200 have been housed since 2013, according to data provided by the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo and local Supportive Services for Veteran Families grantees,” Weir said.
As part of its 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, the County conducts a census of its homeless population every two years, which also ensures that the County continues to receive funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for shelters, services, and permanent supportive housing. The census conducted in January 2017 found 1,125 homeless persons in SLO County, compared to 1,515 persons counted on a single day in January 2015. A total of 81 homeless veterans were counted by the Point in Time Count in January 2017, compared to 130 in 2015. This represents a 38 percent decrease since 2015 and a 67 percent decrease from 2013, when 247 veterans were counted.
However, heavy rains around the time of the census likely caused some otherwise homeless people to stay with friends, family or in motels they paid for themselves. These individuals would not have been counted in the census.
Weir noted that while this likely had some impact on the size of the decrease, annual data collected by homeless services programs over the past two years also suggested there had been a decrease in the number of homeless persons in the county since January 2015. She also noted that new programs to house homeless people in the county had been making an impact.
“For example, 238 homeless families were housed by the County’s CalWORKs Housing Support Program from January 2015 to January 2017, and at least 18 additional participating families were housed in partnership with other programs during that time period,” Weir said. She noted that an insufficient supply of housing continues to be the biggest barrier to eliminating homelessness in the County.
“There simply aren’t enough vacant rental units available in SLO County,” Weir said. “According to the most recent data from the Census Bureau, the percentage of available units in rental properties here is only 2.79 percent. For comparison, the state average was 3.3 percent and the national average was 5.85 percent.”
Other key findings from this year’s report include:
- Most homeless persons surveyed were either from this county or had a connection to the area
- 74 percent of all homeless adults surveyed reported they had become homeless while living in San Luis Obispo County, compared to 57 percent in 2015
- Of those who became homeless in other counties or states, 49 percent came to San Luis Obispo County because they had previously lived here, and an additional 29 percent came to the county because they had friends or family here
- The length of time people are homeless appears to be getting longer
- Nearly 72 percent of homeless adults surveyed reported having been homeless for a year or more, compared to 66 percent in 2015
- The City of San Luis Obispo had the largest concentration of persons who were homeless (34 percent), followed by the unincorporated areas of the county
- Atascadero was the most frequent place of residence at the time of housing loss (17 percent of surveyed respondents)
Weir noted that homeless point-in-time counts in the counties of Santa Barbara, Kern, King/Tulare, Ventura, and San Benito also reported reductions from 2015 to 2017, with Monterey and Fresno/Madera reporting increases.
The County must follow federal methodology for the census, and works with a nonprofit research firm to design and conduct the census and survey. Under federal rules, enumerators may only count those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or on the streets, or in vehicles or abandoned buildings or other places not meant for human habitation, or in motels where the rooms were paid for by nonprofits.
This year’s count was conducted in a single, 12-hour period on the night of January 29 and in the morning of January 30. Persons living in shelters, transitional housing, or motels paid for by nonprofits were counted on the night of January 29. Unsheltered persons were counted by a street count that took place on the morning of January 30. Teams of volunteers and homeless guides – persons who were currently or formerly homeless and who were familiar with where encampments were located – conducted the count around the county. In the following weeks after the count, surveys were conducted with a sampling of 170 homeless persons to collect demographic and other information.
The point-in-time count is intended to be a snapshot of the population in a single point in time. It does not provide an estimate of the annual number of persons who were homeless throughout the year, but is intended to measure trends in homelessness.