Sandy Feretto

Redwood Times

The Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition (HHHC) recently released their 2013 Point in Time (PIT) homeless survey that is a snapshot of the county's homeless population on one specific day, called the Point In Time.

The survey is a count and survey of conditions of the homeless population on one day in January of 2013. There were previous Point In Time counts in 2005, 2009, and 2011.

Karen (Fox) Olson, of the Arcata House Partnership and co-chair of the HHHC, explained that the PIT is a national event that the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calls a snapshot of people on the streets for that certain night. The counts are required by HUD for funding under the Continuum of Care program, which is a competitively awarded set of programs that address problems of homelessness in conjunction with other federal agencies.

Olson said that Dawn Watkins, who was with WISH at time of the 2013 PIT, was the point coordinator for the Southern Humboldt Point In Time survey. This was the first time there was a coordinator specifically for the Southern Humboldt portion of the survey. For the purposes of the PIT count, the area of the county from Scotia south was designated Southern Humboldt.

Results showed there was a dramatic increase in homelessness in Southern Humboldt from the previous PIT surveys in 2009 and 2011 and that matched the anecdotal perception that there are more “street homeless, transients, and vagrants” on the streets of Garberville, Olson said.

People who are sheltered (in transitional living or multiple assistance programs) and unsheltered (on the streets or in cars, camps or what HUD calls uninhabitable places) are counted. Currently, WISH is the only shelter available in the Garberville/Redway area. Olson said that in Southern Humboldt the majority of homeless people are considered unsheltered.

Homeless people or people who knew of other campers sometimes accompanied the surveyors in Southern Humboldt to places where people were living. The surveys were also conducted where services were available. Olson said the survey probably undercounts, since there are many people who do not go to free meals, to the church to get gas vouchers or to the food bank, and there may be individual camps that were not found.

Olson noted there are usually more single men and many people with disabilities, substance abuse problems or mental health challenges in the homeless population. The survey states that survey respondents self-report their living and health conditions.

Olson acknowledged there is missing data in the survey. One of the problems is that the count is a volunteer effort, and any areas on the survey form that were not filled in completely left data missing.

HHHC is already planning for the PIT count for January 2015. The goal for the next count is 100% accuracy and will probably be conducted using a hand-held device, Olson said.

Results of the survey are available on the website wwwhumboldthousing.org.