Report shows number of homeless increasing

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SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — A biennial census taken in January shows that Santa Cruz County’s homeless population rose by more than 14 percent since the 2015 count, Santa Cruz County officials reported Thursday.

The Point-in-Time Count, which was released at a press conference Thursday, also shows that homelessness among both adults and youths have increased since the last count.

According to the census, taken on Jan. 23 by a team of volunteers and compiled by Applied Survey Research, 2,249 homeless individuals live in Santa Cruz County, a 14.5 percent increase since the last count of 1,964.

The report also showed that one in four of the homeless people are women, and that the number of unaccompanied children and transition-age youth doubled between 2015 and 2017.

More than half of the people surveyed reported suffering from a disabling condition, which can include psychiatric or emotional conditions, alcohol or drug abuse, physical disabilities and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Homelessness is an issue that can touch our friends or families at any time,” Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Leopold said. “As a community of compassion, we can and should work together to find lasting solutions to a very complex set of challenges. Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head and a chance at a better life.”

Santa Cruz County’s homeless population overwhelmingly lives on the street, in vehicles or is otherwise unsheltered, with four in five lacking a roof over their heads, the survey showed.

An estimated 129 students are experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and there are 2,881 more students sharing a residence with another family who meet a more expansive definition of homelessness used by schools.

The report highlighted programs and services created to help the homeless population, such as the Health Services Agency’s Whole Person Care pilot project, which will provide homeless persons with housing services, including housing search and maintenance support.

The county also received a $2.2 million Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant, one of only 10 communities nationwide to receive these grants, to address youth homelessness. The county also funds an incentive program to encourage landlords to rent to homeless families and individuals.

In identifying obstacles to permanent housing, 70 percent said they needed rental assistance, 67 percent said they needed more affordable housing, 49 percent said they needed assistance with moving costs and 44 percent said they needed help finding an apartment.

A total of 600 individuals said they are experiencing chronic homelessness.

“These numbers demonstrate the challenges that lay ahead of us,” Santa Cruz County Homeless Services Coordinator Rayne Marr said. “Leadership in the county and cities, along with community organizations, are taking an ‘all-in’ approach to solving this problem. The report shows this is a countywide problem, and it will take a countywide solution to address the underlying issues and help our most vulnerable residents.”

The purpose of the 2017 Santa Cruz County Homeless Point-in-Time Count and Survey is to produce an estimate of people who experience homelessness in Santa Cruz County. The results of the count are combined with the results from the shelter and institution count to produce the total estimated number of persons experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz County on any given night.

To read the Santa Cruz County All-In Plan to End Homelessness, visit smartsolutionstohomelessness.org.

To read the 2017 Santa Cruz County Point-in-Time Count, visit www.santacruzcounty.us.

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