The amount of individuals counted during the annual Homeless Census in San Benito County was almost the double the amount counted in 2013, according to statistics released by The Coalition of Homeless Service Providers.
The coalition’s annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count on Jan. 28 used the definition used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which includes persons living in shelters and places not meant for human habitation, but excludes persons who are living doubled up with others due to economic hardship. The number of individuals counted in the general street and shelter count was 651. Compared to 2013, this almost doubles the 365 homeless individuals counted two years ago. The point-in-time count in San Benito County has steadily risen between the years 2007 to 2015.
“The large increase in homelessness in San Benito County is significant,” said Coalition of Homeless Services Providers Executive Officer Katherine Thoeni. “A portion of the increase can be attributed to a more assertive count process and refined census methodology. But clearly, our work is far from over.”
Approximately 73 percent of the individuals counted were unsheltered with 27 percent classified as sheltered via the emergency shelter system. Of the unsheltered, 16 percent were living in encampments, 38 percent were living in vehicles, 6 percent were living on the street and 13 percent living in abandoned buildings. Sixty eight percent of respondents identified themselves as Latino, while 23 percent were white. The others were multi-racial or African-American.
A significant majority — 86 percent — claim San Benito County as their residence prior to becoming homeless and nearly 60 percent of those report living here for 10 years or more. Officials say health is a major issue for the county’s homeless, with 38 percent stating they have a disabling condition. Fifty two percent of those counted were male and 48 percent female. More than 4 in 10 respondents reported their total monthly income as less than $449.
“The long-term solution to ending the cycle of homeless in our community is a concerted multi-jurisdictional strategy to significantly increase the stock of affordable and safe housing for extremely low-income individuals and families while addressing the multi-faceted challenges of homelessness at the service level,” Thoeni said. “Social Security or disability income doesn’t begin to pay for a small apartment in our community. A person has to work more than two full-time minimum wage jobs just to live here. High rents and lack of affordable housing help to create homelessness. We can, and should, do better.”
To read the 2015 Homeless Census, find out about the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers, sign an online petition supporting affordable housing or learn about accepting rental subsidy programs, go to www.chspmontereycounty.org or www.sbccab.wix.com/cab1.