Latest Stanislaus County homeless count is tricky

Numbers look lower, but many factors can influence annual tally

kvaline@modbee.comJune 13, 2013 


ELIAS FUNEZ/ Modesto's Kelly Nix (right) pets her cat Harry Houdini while her partner Art Valencia (left) wakes up from under a makeshift encampment on the Tuolumnne River near the 7th Street Bridge Thursday morning (01-31-13). The couple have been living in makeshift near the river here now for over a year and were recently counted for the homeless count conducted every two years Thursday morning (01-31-13).

ELIAS FUNEZ — The Modesto Bee

    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
    Recent stories written by Kevin

— A one-day count designed to provide a snapshot of homelessness in Stanislaus County turned up the lowest number in several years, but these snapshots don't always take in the full picture of those who call the streets, riverbanks and emergency shelters home.

Volunteers counted 1,201 homeless people in late January on behalf of the Stanislaus Housing & Support Services Collaborative. The collaborative recently released the results.

Similar one-day counts conducted since 2005 have counted 1,434 to 1,800 homeless people.

This year's drop surprised an official with the Modesto Gospel Mission, which operates a 180-bed emergency shelter for men and women and provides 300 to 350 meals a day for the homeless, clients in its transitional living programs and others.

"Our numbers are holding steady, unfortunately," Patty Law said.

The results of these one-day tallies can be affected by many factors, such as the weather.

The count was part of a national effort to tally the homeless in January. Volunteers fanned out across Stanislaus County. The numbers they gathered were augmented by counts by homeless shelters and other places that house the homeless.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that groups — such as the Stanislaus collaborative — applying for some of its homeless grants conduct a count every two years in the last week of January.

The collaborative is made up of more than 50 nonprofits and government agencies, such as the cities of Modesto and Turlock, The Salvation Army and the Housing Authority.

Stanislaus County's biennial count also helps nonprofits, government agencies and others fine-tune their efforts to help the homeless by providing them with in-depth information about the homeless.

Here are some highlights:

• Children made up 146 — or 12 percent — of the 1,201 homeless people counted. An additional 99 of the homeless were 18 to 24 years old, increasing the percentage of homeless youth to 20 percent.

• About half of the homeless people counted were living in emergency or transitional housing.

• Sixty-three of the people counted were domestic violence victims.

• Eighty-seven of the people counted said they were veterans.

Collaborative members will meet Thursday to hear more in-depth findings, such as how long they have been homeless and the city and county they last lived in before becoming homeless.

The collaborative meeting is at 2:30 p.m. at the Housing Authority of the County of Stanislaus, 1701 Robertson Road, Modesto.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or (209) 578-2316.


Annual homeless counts:

• 2005: 1,613

• 2007: 1,593

• 2009: 1,800

• 2011 1,434

• 2013: 1,201

Source: Stanislaus Housing & Support Services Collaborative

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