Another View: Public funds shrinking, not numbers of Placer homeless population

Another View
By: Suzi deFosset, executive director of The Gathering Inn
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How many homeless persons are too many in Placer County? That is the question that gets answered every other year in January. The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires those counties that receive HUD monies to account for the homeless in their communities. This point-in-time count was organized by Placer Consortium on Homeless and performed on Jan. 24 by volunteers, community based program staffing and city or county staff. Now, one would think this should be a fairly easy task – spot a homeless person and enter a number. Not so. Each person needs to be asked questions that will help decide if they fit the HUD definition of homeless. A person is considered homeless only when he/she is: living in places not meant for human habitation (unsheltered), living in an emergency shelter, or living in transitional housing for the homeless but originally came from the streets or an emergency shelter or was originally homeless or is living in a motel funded by public or private agencies. The above-mentioned volunteers and staff hit the streets on Jan. 24 to interview as many homeless as they could find. This effort resulted in a total of 631 persons meeting the criteria of HUD. On that date, 95 persons were in a shelter, 261 persons were in transitional housing and 275 persons were counted as unsheltered or 43 percent of the homeless in Placer County are without a roof over their heads. Also identified in this point-in-time count were self reporting subpopulations. (See table below this article). Due to shrinking public funds, the ability to expand or start programs is not able to meet this growing demand. This will result with even more people on the street. At what number do the homeless become visible? At what number do we consider too many homeless and begin to be part of the solution rather than the problem? Are we there yet? Suzi deFosset is the executive director of the Gathering Inn, a Placer County nonprofit organization that helps the homeless. ------------------------------- Homeless self-reporting subpopulations Sheltered Unsheltered Total Severely Mentally Ill 106 81 187 Chronic Substance Abuse 134 84 218 Persons with HIV/AIDS 0 5 5 Victims of Domestic Violence 82 34 116