Annual Stanislaus count turns up record number of homeless people

Hear the outcome of Stanislaus County’s 2019 homeless count

This year's point-in-time count tallied 1,923 homeless people living in Stanislaus County, including 250 children.
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This year's point-in-time count tallied 1,923 homeless people living in Stanislaus County, including 250 children.

This year’s count of the homeless in Stanislaus County tallied a record 1,923 people — including 250 children — staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing as well as sleeping in cars, parks and elsewhere outdoors.

Volunteers conducted the count in late January on behalf of the Stanislaus Community System of Care, which consists of local governments, nonprofits, homeless service providers and others.

These counts are conducted in communities nationwide as part of applying for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development homelessness funding.

The system of care released the results of this year’s count Wednesday. The results are the largest since the counts started here in 2005 and top the previous high of 1,800 homeless people counted in 2009, which was during the Great Recession.

This year’s results were significantly higher than last year’s count, which tallied 1,356 homeless people. But last year’s effort suffered from growing pains as the system of care was reorganized, which included the county taking on a bigger role. As some context, the 2017 count tallied 1,661 homeless people.

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Organizers for this year’s count, including the county, made an effort to improve the effort. This included more volunteers, more training for them and more planning and organization, including working with the county’s Office of Emergency Services.

“We really did a good job this year,” said Francine DiCiano, co-chair of the system of care and CEO of the United Way of Stanislaus County. She said 311 volunteers were trained for this year’s count, which was nearly twice as many as last year’s.

“This has probably been the most organized count we’ve had in this county, at least in my memory,” county Deputy Executive Officer Ruben Imperial said. Organizers said Modesto, Turlock, the county and its Office of Emergency Services, among others, played big roles.

As in previous years, the majority of the homeless — 1,400 of the 1,923 — were counted in Modesto, reflecting its role as the county’s largest city and home to many services. But this year’s count included a focus on surrounding communities. For instance, volunteers tallied 76 homeless people in Patterson and 17 in Newman.

HUD calls these efforts point in time counts, and they should be considered a snapshot of homelessness in a given community. The counts should not be considered definitive. Volunteers, armed with surveys, interview as many homeless people as they can. Volunteers this year collected 1,488 useable surveys. The results include:

80 percent of the homeless said they had been living in Stanislaus County when they first became homeless

1,088 were not in shelters, 662 were in emergency shelters and 173 were in transitional housing

1,199 were male, 717 were female, five were transgender and two were gender nonconforming

The top barriers to getting help include a lack of transportation, not having identification or appropriate documents, not knowing where to go, and not qualifying for services

Many homeless people reported having an income, including 250 with Social Security, 148 receiving disability payments and 87 receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is for families with children