Homelessness Increases in Central Contra Costa County

While there was a 7-percent drop this year in people experiencing homelessness in Contra Costa County when an annual survey was conducted in January, there was a substantial rise in the number of homeless in Central County — with the exception of cities including Danville and San Ramon — according to a report released this week by Contra Costa Health Services’ Division of Health, Housing and Homeless Services, or H3.

H3 and its community partners, including many volunteers, surveyed county residents living in emergency shelters or outdoors on Jan. 25 and released detailed findings this week in the 2017 Point-in-Time Count report. The report showed that 1,607 people without housing during that 24-hour period were counted, including 911 who were living outside — down from 1,100 who were documented living outside in 2016.

“We are glad that we found fewer people experiencing homelessness. But there is a great deal more work to be done, and the housing market makes it more difficult,” said H3 Director Lavonna Martin. “It’s not surprising that 80 percent of those we surveyed lost their housing right here in Contra Costa County.”

The report showed that substantially more people were counted this year in central Contra Costa — 331 living outdoors without shelter — after an atypically low count in 2016. More than half of Central County’s unsheltered homeless during this year’s point-in-time count were in Concord, where 188 people were found to be sleeping outside — up from 73 in 2016 and 114 in 2015.

The count revealed no unsheltered homeless in Danville, San Ramon, Lafayette, Alamo, Clayton or Clyde.

In Martinez, the number of homeless sleeping outside during the January count was 93, compared to 63 in 2016 and 72 in 2015. Pleasant Hill had 25 homeless sleeping on its streets during the count, compared to 11 in 2016 and 63 in 2015.

Numbers did decline elsewhere, including East County, which had experienced a 30-percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

According to the report, some cities absorb more of the homeless community than others; in other words, they have far more people sleeping outside the night of the count relative to the number of people that lost housing in that city. Crockett, Pinole, Richmond, Danville, Lafayette and Brentwood had significantly fewer unsheltered people on the night of the count relative to the number of individuals that lost housing in that city — at least a 45-percent difference between the number that lost housing and the number unsheltered, according to the report.

Among the 1,607 people found to be experiencing homelessness countywide during this year’s count, 57 percent were unsheltered and 43 were sheltered. According to the report, 381 were found to have a substance use disorder; 368 had a mental health disability; 331 were chronically homeless; 224 were victims of domestic violence; and 99 were veterans.

Officials said Tuesday in a news release that in an effort to reduce these numbers, H3 and the Contra Costa Council on Homelessness have since launched Coordinated Entry, a “new initiative to streamline service delivery and enhance collaboration among the county’s network of nonprofit, faith-based and government providers of homeless services.”

Concord, Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek all joined the effort this spring, officials said, and Martinez and Pleasant Hill split the cost of a full-time, county-operated outreach team to connect homeless residents within their borders with shelter and services. Concord and Walnut Creek are splitting the cost of a second team, and Contra Costa’s Public Works Department also funds a team for the county’s creeks and waterways, according to officials.

Those city-specific Coordinated Outreach, Referral and Engagement — or CORE — teams join three other CORE teams that operate elsewhere in the county, officials said. According to the news release, other elements of Coordinated Entry include:

  • Regional service centers connecting clients to shelter, medical and mental health care, case managers, substance use disorder treatment and services, benefit counselors, and long-term housing;
  • Overnight warming centers that supplement existing emergency shelters;
  • A universal, web-based information management system used by all providers of homeless services in the county to maximize use of their collective resources;
  • A standardized intake and assessment system that streamlines delivery of housing and other services to the most vulnerable clients.

Coordinated Entry is funded in part through $1.2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the news release. Contra Costa’s point-in-time count also fulfills a HUD requirement to document the extent of homelessness within jurisdictions receiving its funding, officials said.

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