Despite widespread concerns about the ongoing effects of the 2017 fires, the 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count shows that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County has declined by 2 percent during the past year - from 2,996 in 2018 to 2,951 in 2019.
While the decrease may not seem large, it’s a marked improvement in the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires. This year’s effort was conducted by the largest group of volunteers to ever participate, with more than 160 volunteers and over 90 guides with lived experience of homelessness canvassing each of the county’s census tracts in the early hours of Fri., Jan. 25, 2019. The final tally saw a considerable decline in chronically homeless people who have experienced homelessness for more than a year continuously, as well as families that are experiencing homelessness.
“While our goal is to end homelessness outright, we are encouraged to see the numbers drop again,” said Jenny Abramson, homeless services manager at the Sonoma County Community Development Commission. “The decline in both chronically homeless people and families experiencing homelessness is quite encouraging.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires Sonoma County to conduct a Homeless Count to be eligible for approximately $3.7 million annually. This year, the State’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program provided an additional $12 million in what was supposed to be one-time funding for homeless services. Soon after, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s preliminary budget proposed significant additional funding for homeless services programs.
Areas of concern for homelessness officials from the Community Development Commission include a near 20 percent rise in the number of young people experiencing homelessness, significant increase in individuals living in vehicles and the continued presence of about 21,000 people who are unstably housed.
Unstably housed older adult population has declined, thanks to post-fire efforts and other service interventions. But it appears that one of the lingering effects of the 2017 wildfires is that young people are now experiencing great difficulty breaking into the local rental market.
The recently-formed Home Sonoma County Leadership Council has worked to centralize homeless services funding and efforts and hopes to reduce Sonoma County’s homeless population by 20% over the next 2 years. HOME Sonoma County Lead Staff Michael Gause, who oversees Count logistics, added that another round of state funding would bolster Home Sonoma County’s intent on decreasing the local homeless population.
For more information, contact HOME Sonoma County Lead Staff Michael Gause at (707) 565-1977 or Michael.Gause@sonoma-county.org.