The number of individuals identified as being homeless in Nevada County increased from previous years, according to survey results from the annual point-in-time count.
404 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted across the county, from Grass Valley to the Town of Truckee. Unlike the 2018 count, this year’s 2019 count was an official biennial HUD-mandated count of both sheltered and unsheltered individuals and families in the county. The count, conducted by volunteers and County staff on January 24, 2019, showed a slight increase from the last HUD count in 2017 that found 371 individuals experiencing homelessness.
This year, County staff placed more emphasis on organizing multiple counting locations on the day of the count and on increasing street outreach for the HUD-allowed window of 10 days after the count. More organization and coordination combined with mild weather allowed for more effective outreach, and likely a more accurate count compared to past counts. Locations throughout the County actively participated in conducting surveys with over 60 volunteers participating in the counting efforts. Extreme Weather Shelter operations in Truckee, Salvation Army in Grass Valley and Sierra Roots in Nevada City, were opened to provide more opportunities for unsheltered homeless residents to come inside, get counted and connect with safety net services. Additionally, the North San Juan community was very active in this year’s count by hosting its own event for people experiencing homelessness on the San Juan Ridge. That event, combined with increased field outreach efforts on the San Juan Ridge, counted 37 people which is higher than any previous survey.
Looking at the overall numbers, this year’s count showed an increase in veterans and families experiencing homelessness. Coordination between the County Superintendent of Schools and Nevada County’s CalWORKS Housing Support Program staff allowed for a more accurate count of families with children than in previous years. The 2019 count surveyed 47 families representing 116 individuals, 43 of whom where children under 18. This compares to 29 families with 55 children in 2017. For Veterans, the 2019 count surveyed 33 identified veterans as compared to 12 in 2017.
Of the adults who responded to detailed survey questions, 48 percent were chronically homeless. 32 percent reported having a serious mental illness, and 36 percent had a substance use disorder. These percentages are proportional to previous survey results.
When asked how long they have lived in Nevada County and why they stay here, 59 percent of the adults surveyed reported that they are originally from the area or stay to be close to family, 59 percent have lived in Nevada County for five years or longer prior to becoming homeless, and 21 percent have lived in Nevada County between one and five years.
Point-in-time counts are not a comprehensive measure of an area's homeless population, but rather snapshots from a single day that can be used to approximate broader trends. Typically, they are viewed as undercounts for a community's yearly overall homeless population because many people may move in and out of homelessness throughout the year. A clear takeaway from the 2019 count is that our homelessness problem is continuing as the affordability of living in California becomes more difficult to maintain or achieve.
A full report for this year’s 2019 count will be released in March. The full report will dig deeper into year over year data trends and will include more information related to homeless numbers in local schools. It will also provide data on other questions asked of participants in the survey.