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County count records rise in homeless
Volunteers are needed to help with a physical count of those experiencing homelessness in Turlock and surrounding communities (Journal file photo).

There are more than 1,900 homeless individuals in Stanislaus County, with 245 residing in the Turlock area, according to the recent results from the point in time count.

The point in time count was done in January and organized by the Stanislaus Community System of Care. The counts are a requirement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for any homeless funding. Volunteers spanned out across the county over a two-day period and visited homeless shelters, transitional housing programs, day centers and other locations where homeless individuals have been seen. The volunteers ask the homeless individuals to fill out a survey that gives the county a better picture of who is homeless and what services might be needed.

The total number of homeless individuals counted over the two days stood at 1,923, which is the highest it has been since the count began in 2005. In 2018, the count came in at 1,356, though that number is not considered completely accurate because there were issues that arose last year over how the count was organized. A better indicator was the tally in 2017, which was at 1,661.

Of the 1,923 individuals counted in January, 245 were in zip codes for Turlock, which had the second highest rate of homeless individuals in the county, with Modesto in first.

Within this year’s tally there were 250 children, 133 veterans, 176 people with a serious mental illness, 144 with a substance abuse disorder, 21, with HIV/AIDS, and 130 domestic abuse survivors.

Men make up the majority of the homeless in the county, at 1,199, followed by 717 women, five transgender and two stating a non-conforming gender.

When asked about where they had slept the night prior to the count, 394 individuals answered at a homeless shelter. The next highest answer at 271 was on a sidewalk or street, followed by 244 answering with an outdoor encampment. Transitional housing got 130 responses, a vehicle had 72 and a park was stated by 61 individuals.

When questioned about income, benefits and services, 536 of those surveyed said they received EBT/food stamps; 250 got Social Security benefits; 84 had a disability income; 61 had Social Security Disability; 87 got benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; 13 had Veterans Administration benefits; and 168 said their income came for some other source. Ten people said they were employed, two said they got money from panhandling and six said their income was from recycling.

The survey asked the primary reason why people had left housing and 59 percent said they were forced to leave and 28 percent said they chose to leave. The remaining 13 percent did not answer the question.

The participants were asked what issues they had encountered in the past year when trying to access help or services and the majority, at 716 responses, said it was a lack of transportation. Another 448 said it was not having an identification card or the right documents and 410 stated they did not know where to go for help. Two hundred eighty-four said they didn’t qualify and 232 said they were placed on a waiting list.

Eighty percent of the respondents said they first became homeless while living in Stanislaus County; 115 were in Turlock.

The survey asked the participants all the reasons they believe contributed to them becoming homeless. Twenty-eight percent said it was because of abuse or violence at home; 20 percent responded because of alcohol or substance abuse; 23 percent said it was because they lost their job or couldn’t find work.

 Gov. Gavin Newsom just recently announced the formation of the Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force and its co-chairs Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Earlier this month, the Governor released his May budget revision which included a $1 billion to fight California’s homelessness crisis. The budget would increase emergency aid for local jurisdictions, make money available to cities and counties directly and fund permanent supportive housing or innovative approaches like motel and hotel conversions.

“No Californian can say homelessness is someone else’s problem – it affects us all,” said Newsom. “Homelessness is a matter of statewide concern, but solutions will come from the local level. Mayors, county supervisors and city councils around the state are working hard to reduce homelessness and its underlying causes. We’ll be watching these local and regional solutions closely, to lend a hand and help them scale.”

The Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force will meet a number of times throughout the year in cities and counties around the state to observe best practices firsthand and receive input from governments and constituents statewide to propose solutions to address the homelessness epidemic. The Governor will announce additional members of the Task Force and future meeting dates and locations in the coming weeks.