SOUTH COUNTY — The number of homeless individuals living in Monterey County decreased during a two-year period, according to a new count released Aug. 22; however, that number increased in the four South County cities.
According to the bi-annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count conducted Jan. 31 earlier this year, there were increases in homelessness in families, veterans and individuals.
The number of individuals counted in the general street and shelter count in Monterey County totaled 2,422, according to the report, which is a decrease of 415 individuals, or 14.6 percent, in 2017.
Of the current number, 562 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness with one or more disabling conditions were counted this year, or 23 percent of the homeless population — an increase from 21 percent in 2017.
The most dramatic spike was the increase of people 51 years or older experiencing homeless, increasing from 23 percent to 40 percent in two years. Homeless veterans represented 7 percent of the homeless population in the county in this count, an increase from 4 percent two years ago.
Approximately 25 percent, or 596 people, of the homeless population represented people living as members of a family with children who are experiencing homelessness. This is an increase from 19 percent in 2017. However, the report noted that 10 of the county’s school districts participated in this year’s census compared to only one two years ago.
Per regulations set for by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), communities are required to participate in the Point-in-Time Count during the last 10 days of January every two years.
While factors for the overall decline include an increase in general assistance grant funding from $133 to $340 per month and the addition of new affordable housing, according to the report, Coalition of Homeless Services Providers Interim Executive Officer Elliot Robinson noted that the increase in South County is due to several factors.
One is a more “profound” participation in the county from local leaders, Robinson said, which could have resulted in a greater count.
However, Robinson noted that even though HUD regulations require that the count be conducted during a time threshold, getting an accurate count also depends on weather conditions and willingness of the volunteers.
“Homeless people don’t always make themselves visible,” Robinson said, “particularly in smaller communities.”
The pressures of the housing market are reaching more people as well. That also includes rises in rents.
“When the housing costs exceed roughly a third of someone’s income,” Robinson said, “that has an impact on growth in homelessness.”
Robinson said a new $11.9 million grant, which also includes funding for San Benito County, is in the process of getting approved and will go toward rehousing programs. These include two regional shelters, including one in Salinas, which Robinson said will participate in South County cities.
A new shelter for women and children is also planned for Seaside.
Robinson is cautiously optimistic with the overall decline. Despite a slight dip of 1 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state still has the highest rate of homelessness in the country.
According to HUD statistics, California still has about 130,000 homeless individuals.
“There is still a long way to go,” he stated. “The findings from the homeless census, which counted a decline, doesn’t change the ongoing urgency to continue working towards long-term solutions toward ending the cycle of homelessness in our community.”