Volunteers Needed for Homeless Count

Homeless count

Nearly 200 volunteers are needed to conduct the 2017 Point-in-Time Homeless Count in Santa Clara County on Jan 24, 25.
Paired with trained homeless guides, volunteers canvas the county, spot-checking encampments, parked vehicles, abandoned buildings, campsites, creek beds, any public spaces where homeless folks are known to dwell. The point-in-time count occurs on the same dates across the nation and is required by the federal government for jurisdictions who receive federal funds for homeless services through HUD (Housing and Urban Development). In 2016, Santa Clara County received $20 million in such federal funds.
South county (Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy), which saw an increase in the homeless population between 2013-2015 even as the overall homeless count decreased countywide, will get its own break-out report this year.
“It will focus on the specific nature of homelessness in south county,” said John Connery of Applied Survey Research, which has been contracted by the county to coordinate Santa Clara County’s homeless count since 2004.
The South County count will take place on Jan.24. The Compassion Center in Gilroy will serve as a deployment site where volunteers will start gathering at 5 a.m. Volunteers who do not go on the count are also needed to serve coffee at the Compassion Center in the morning.
In 2015, there were 6,556 identified homeless in Santa Clara County, compared to 7,631 in 2013, the lowest it’s been in 11 years.
While overall homeless figures decreased in the county between 2013 and 2015, the number of homeless increased in all South County jurisdictions, including Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin, from 599 to 858. In San Martin the amount more than doubled from 159 to 338.
Jan Bernstein-Chargin, director of the Compassion Center, which helps identify and train the homeless guides for the count and extended survey that takes place in the weeks following, said the South County increases are due to a variety of reasons.
“The housing crisis finally made its way to Gilroy,” she said. “Many of the initiatives to alleviate homelessness, like Housing First, were concentrated in North County, and there are fewer housing starts for supportive housing in South County, zero in Gilroy.”
While the count is not perfect–volunteers are, after all, trying to find people that do not want to be found–it helps agencies, and the public, better understand the population.
After the count, which is observational only, trained homeless guides, who receive a small stipend for their work, conduct interviews with people living on the street or in shelters.
“We are looking for the causes of homelessness,” said Bernstein-Chargin. “How many are looking for housing, who lost their jobs, how many are working, what services they need, and what their goals are.” In 2015, foreclosures, evictions, and not being able to afford rent were given as reasons for homelessness, with 93 percent saying they wanted permanent housing.
Sign up to volunteer for the 2017 Point-in-Time Homeless Count at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2017SantaClarapit. Non-counting volunteers can contact the Compassion Center (408) 763-7120.

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