San Benito County’s homeless population has increased by 26%–or 75 people–since 2019. Much of this increase is reportedly linked to ongoing challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic, and county officials say there would be even more homeless residents without the availability of local resources.
Volunteers for the county conducted a Point In Time count of people experiencing homelessness on Jan. 27. Such a count is required every two years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), says a July 28 press release from the county. HUD requires all communities that receive federal funding for homelessness services to conduct a PIT count of people experiencing homelessness.
The PIT count is the primary source of nationwide data on homelessness and identifies people living in unsheltered and sheltered settings.
To conduct the San Benito County PIT, 20 volunteers from Community Action Board, Community Homeless Solutions, Health and Human Services Agency and the community at large walked or drove routes covering the county’s entire geography to count people experiencing homelessness, says the press release. The county also collected information from all emergency shelters and transitional housing sites.
The last PIT count here was in 2019. The 2022 count found that homelessness in San Benito County has increased by 26% since 2019, even though officials have made “significant investments” in supportive housing for those with the highest needs and longest periods of homelessness, as well as emergency assistance for those affected by the pandemic, says the press release.
In 2019, there were 253 local people experiencing homelessness. In 2022, this number jumped to 357. County officials said the increase is a result of widening income inequality, high inflation and a lack of affordable housing—factors that are continuing to drive individuals and families into homelessness.
“The increase of 26% is a more accurate count compared to the 2019 census; however, I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are higher given the many challenges this pandemic has caused,” said Enrique Arreola, the county’s Deputy Director of Community Services and Workforce Development. “Without the support of the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers, Community Action Board, community volunteers, Health and Human Services Agency and the San Benito County Board of Supervisors, this census would not have happened. Thanks to all who volunteered.”
Highlights of the county’s 2022 Homeless Census Executive Summary Report include:
– The homeless count changed from 283 to 357 homeless people in San Benito County, reflecting an increase of 75 individuals.
– Ninety-five percent of the homeless population were prior residents of San Benito County.
– Twenty percent of those counted in the report are homeless for the first time.
– Thirty-seven percent reported that financial issues were the primary cause of their homelessness.
– Six homeless people reported being veterans who have served on active duty in their lifetime.
– Twelve percent, or 42 homeless people, were children younger than 18.
– Twenty-eight percent were employed; 42% were unable to work; and 40% were looking for work, says the press release.
“The latest homeless census for our community underscores the severity of this crisis in our community,” said Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki, who sits on the county’s Homeless Taskforce. “Reducing the homeless population is one of the most profound challenges of our time, but I have no doubt San Benito County leaders are fully committed to getting people off the streets, offering opportunities for humane living conditions, and providing services to better their lives.”
San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency and the Community Services and Workforce Development Division continue to provide services to hundreds of homeless people every year through the following programs, the press release notes: Permanent Supportive Housing, Transitional Housing, Rapid Rehousing, Tenant Based Rental Assistance, Homeless Housing Assistance Program, Housing Support Program, Homeless Disability Advocacy Program, Project Roomkey for hotel vouchers, Winter Shelter Program and a year-round homeless shelter operated by Community Homeless Solutions.
County officials added that PIT Count information is used for strategic planning and program design. The PIT Count results can affect funding and improve the local understanding of the size and characteristics of the homeless population.
“The strategic goal of this region-wide effort of Monterey/San Benito County Continuum of Care (COC) is to reduce homelessness by 50% within the next five years under the Lead Me Home Plan to Reduce Homelessness 5-year Plan,” says the press release.
A full report will be presented at the San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting that begins at 9am Aug. 9.
For information on Homeless Services in San Benito County, call 831.637.9293.