Census Shows Fewer Chronically Homeless

Photo: Rick Crispino of Bonita House speaks at a press conference commending the success of the city's efforts in lowering homeless rates as revealed in a recent in-depth county census.
Lara Brucker/Staff
Rick Crispino of Bonita House speaks at a press conference commending the success of the city's efforts in lowering homeless rates as revealed in a recent in-depth county census.





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A census of the Alameda County homeless population released Wednesday found that the number of chronically homeless people in Berkeley has plummeted, a statistic city officials attribute to quicker and more personalized services.

The census-conducted by EveryOne Home, which coordinates the county's homeless agencies-found that chronic homelessness in the city dropped 48 percent since 2007, while the county-wide number dropped by 18 percent in the same time period.

"This is easily the largest reduction in the state to date", said Ed Cabrera, the regional coordinator for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The number of all homeless people in the county decreased by 10 percent since 2007, from 4838 to 4341.

But at the same time, the number of hidden homeless­-those living temporarily with family, in motels or within seven days of being evicted-has skyrocketed 168 percent in the county since 2003, the last time a survey included the hidden homeless.

To gather the data, 200 volunteers went out to areas where the homeless use services. UC Berkeley's Survey Research Center processed the data, said project manager Kathie Barkow.

At a press conference Wednesday announcing the data, Mayor Tom Bates called it "a day of celebration" for Berkeley and its homeless agencies.

"Its all about supportive housing," he said. "Getting people off the streets and directly into supportive housing."

City officials credit the drastic drop to moving chronically homeless people, those who have been homeless for a year or more or have had four or more episodes of homelessness in the last three years­­, directly into housing and the adoption of a more personalized case-worker system.

"We have taken a more hands-on approach so (clients) have a case worker at all times," said Darlene Gardner, a caseworker for the Berkeley Food and Housing Project at Bonita House in Berkeley.

Caroline Barajas was one of the city's chronically homeless who is now in permanent housing.

After living on and off the streets for four years, dealing with the problems of drug addiction, gang violence and a bipolar disorder, she came to Bonita House, a non-profit mental health agency.

Barajas arrived at the house on May 21 and met with Gardner, and together they were able to get her permanent housing. Barajas moved into a unit in Emeryville on Tuesday with her three children.

"(Gardner) has been like a big giant angel to me," she said.

While the drop in the number of chronic homeless provided encouraging news, the number of hidden homeless in the county increased from 1,134 in 2003 to 3,042 in 2009.

Elaine deColigny, executive director of EveryOne Home, described the hidden homeless data as sobering.

"The reason for this? I have three words: recession, recession, recession," she said.

Housing instability has increased dramatically because of the recession, according to the census.

The census showed that people

rarely go directly from their own housing straight to shelters.

"(The hidden homeless) bounce around hotels and burn through all their resources," deColigny said. "If we don't act soon, they will end up homeless."

Federal stimulus funds are providing $1.5 billion for permanent housing to stabilize the nation's hidden homeless, according to Cabrera.

That money will be coming to local agencies by the end of the month. By October, the Rapid Re-housing Program, aimed specifically for the hidden homeless, should be in effect, deColigny said.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will announce the department's Annual Homeless Assessment Report, as well as a major funding announcement Thursday, according to a department press release.

"Alameda County will certainly bode well tomorrow," Cabrera said.

Tags: HOMELESS SERVICES, HOMELESS CENSUS


Contact Javier Panzar at [email protected]



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