Homeless Count

This article in the Sacramento Bee highlights some important information from the recent count, two facts being: 70% of Sacramento Region homeless are natives and most are in the city of Sacramento with large concentration in the Parkway.

An excerpt.

Shawn Porter woke up in William Land Park on Friday and smoked a Marlboro Red for breakfast not far from the zoo where he worked selling popcorn as a kid.

A few miles away, behind a south Sacramento dumpster, Steve Devlin used the morning light to search for a set of dice his displeased lady-friend chucked into the bushes at his street camp close to the mobile home park where his parents once lived.

Deja Sturdevan’s day began by pushing past prickly branches guarding her sleeping quarters in shrubbery near a heavily trafficked boulevard in Antelope, blocks from a house she said she lived in for 14 years with her ex-husband before divorce and drugs put her in the weeds.

“This is my neighborhood,” said Sturdevan, blond hair in a ponytail and nails painted with glittery polish. “I’m comfortable here.”

This trio are among the 3,665 people living without permanent shelter in Sacramento County, according to a new count released Monday by Sacramento Steps Forward, the agency that coordinates local efforts to aid the homeless.

Homelessness rose by a startling 30 percent from 2,822 people the last time the transient population was counted in 2015, it said. It is the highest number of people living without permanent housing Sacramento has ever recorded.

About 2,000 of those counted by the survey are living outside, marking another first: More people are now living in the elements than in shelters or other emergency housing, the reverse of previous years.

The number of unsheltered homeless in the county skyrocketed by 85 percent in recent years, making up nearly half of the increase in overall numbers. About 800 of those are chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for more than a year or have had multiple bouts of homelessness in the past three years, and have a mental, physical or developmental disability that keeps them from working.

“This is not just a sobering report, this is a damning report,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg at a Monday press conference. “This report is a call to action, no excuses.”

Porter, Devlin and Sturdevan highlight a trend among the long-term homeless people who spend nights in the open: The majority are from here, often living in familiar areas where they grew up or have ties to the community. Sacramento Steps Forward has found 70 percent of people it comes in contact with say they are from the city where they are currently sleeping – whether it’s Sacramento, a surrounding suburb or the unincorporated part of the county.

“It’s important to own that these people on your street are your people,” said Ryan Loofbourrow, CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward. “It’s easier to think this is a tragedy that has come to us.”

Because more homeless people are staying close to their former homes, their numbers – and visibility – are growing outside of Sacramento’s urban core and the American River Parkway. More are in residential areas and suburbs that previously had few people living outdoors. …

The numbers are taken from a single-night tally of homeless people counted by volunteers. The biennial count, required for federal funding, is meant to provide a point-in-time snapshot of life on the streets. Sacramento Steps Forward receives about $19 million in annual funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Loofbourrow said.

The one-night count is also used to estimate overall numbers of homeless people in the county for the entire year – higher numbers than the one-night count. The previous count estimated that 7,619 households would experience homelessness at some point during 2016 – 1,844 of them families with children.

The suburban sprawl of homelessness hasn’t lessened the concentration of people living along the rivers and downtown, where transient populations have long bedded down and where most homeless people remain. More than 60 percent of homeless people in the county were found in the city of Sacramento.

Volunteers who worked on the homeless count reported dense clusters of transients along the levees and Garden Highway. They counted 363 tents, three times as many as during the previous tally. That rise was likely due to people driven off the American River itself by heavy flooding over the winter, Loofbourrow said. The week before the count took place, flooding was extreme and people who likely were living deep in the wooded areas around the river were forced into more visible areas, adding numbers to the count, he said.

The migration from waterways hit Discovery Park and the area around Cal Expo the hardest, the report states.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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