At the start of the pandemic, experts were predicting an increase in homelessness of 20% in California. We anticipated tough news with our local 2022 Point in Time (PIT) Count, the annual HUD-mandated homeless count, and have been closely monitoring what could be in store for Sonoma County.
Thanks to historic levels of support from you and others like you, as well as our community partners and public funders, we mitigated a potentially catastrophic increase in homelessness.
Results from the PIT Count show a 5% increase in homelessness in Sonoma County, one of the lowest increases in the entire Bay Area. Other Bay Area regions saw increases of 30% or more. Although we averted a greater increase, it is still unacceptable for anyone to have to spend their days and night without the safety of home. We press on.
A few statistics stood out to us:
- In Sonoma County, the number of homeless families with children has continued to decrease since 2016. In 2022, there were 48 families with 155 family members experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County representing 5% of the total persons experiencing homelessness.
- 23% percent of homeless respondents lost housing due to employment issues, the no. 1 reason for homelessness, while other issues like incarceration or substance abuse are 8%.
- 36% of homeless respondents reported having a substance abuse disorder.
- 63% reported unaffordable rent as an obstacle to securing permanent housing and another 45% cited no job or not enough income as an obstacle.
- 89% of respondents who were unsheltered or staying in shelter would move into housing if it were available.
- Since 2018, there is an emerging trend of those experiencing homelessness for the first time at age 50 or older.
For those precariously housed, inflation, housing scarcity, and the impacts of unpredictable employment have been devastating. Our team is working tirelessly to prevent homelessness through financial stability coaching, food distributions, and other housing counseling opportunities.
Similarly, our shelter and housing operations have continuously adapted to meet the ever-changing needs of this pandemic climate. We have worked our way through social distancing, paused shelter intakes, closed schools, and shuttered offices. At times, these barriers slowed our ability to house people at the pace we were accustomed to.
Fortunately, the difficulties of the pandemic led us as well as our elected leaders and fellow nonprofits to look at homeless solutions in entirely new ways. With the creation of Santa Rosa’s inRESPONSE mental health crisis support team, Safe Parking, and soon Caritas Village we will be able to provide an even stronger response to the housing-related issues listed above. Our various permanent supportive housing sites such as The Palms Inn and Imola House continue to provide stability and hope for those who were once chronically homeless individuals.
We thank you for your compassion in addressing this crisis which still affects far too many. As we continue to build on successes and learn lessons about our approach to ending homelessness, we hope you will walk with us so we can arrive at the solutions together…
Photo credit: John Burgess, PD