Sonoma County’s 2020 Point-in-Time Homeless Count report released this week shows that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County decreased by 7% since 2019. The reduction from 2,951 to 2,745 in 2020 was due in large part to an injection of more than $11 million from the Board of Supervisors to fund the Los Guilicos Village campus, shared housing and master leasing options, along with increased funding from the State of California and intensive outreach and care coordination of critical services by the County’s Accessing Coordinated Care & Empowering Self-Sufficiency initiative.
“This year’s point-in-time count demonstrates that Sonoma County’s efforts to provide shelter for some of our most vulnerable residents is moving us in the right direction,” said Susan Gorin, Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Solving homelessness is a major priority for the County, and we must continue to bring individuals into housing with supportive services to maximize their chances of success, particularly during this pandemic.”
Supervisor Gorin noted that this count was taken in February before the local economy shut down due to COVID-19, so it’s unclear how the pandemic may have contributed to the numbers of homeless in the community since then. But she said that the county has accelerated efforts to support those dealing with the region’s high housing costs including authorizing wage replacement for residents who have access to the fewest resources and who test positive for COVID-19. “But we know that one of the consequences of COVID-19 may be increased homelessness across the nation, and we will continue to allocate resources to widen our safety net and help our residents stay off the streets,” she said.
In order for Sonoma County to have a more accurate analysis of people who are unsheltered in Sonoma County, the count was conducted for the first time in 2020 using a mobile app that relays real-time data and pinpoints exact geo locations for individuals being counted. The 2020 county demonstrates that some of the most dramatic decreases appeared in homeless subpopulations which the Department of Housing and Urban Development identified as key to ending homelessness overall. Subpopulations of individuals experiencing homelessness include: Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, homeless families with children, Transition-Age-Youth and veterans.
California continues to fund a wide range of programs to alleviate the homeless crisis. The state’s emphasized funding for subpopulations, alongside Sonoma County’s focus on high-risk populations of individuals experiencing homelessness has had positive results in decreasing homelessness overall.
- 562 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness were identified, a 16% reduction from 675 in 2019.
- 79 families with a total of 233 individuals were found, almost all of them in emergency shelter. This is a decrease of 9%, from 87 families in 2019, and a continued overall decrease in families from a high mark of nearly 200 families in 2013.
- 52 unaccompanied children and 297 TAY were counted, for a total of 349 – a decrease of 47% from 657 in 2019.
- In 2020, 139 veterans were counted, a reduction of 34% from 210 in 2019.
Significant investments in rapid rehousing and permanent housing solutions have also been key to the decrease in homelessness from 2019 to 2020. It should be noted that the Point-In-Time count took place after the declaration of the emergency on the Joe Rodota Trail, which resulted in 104 placements: 60 placements into Los Guilicos Village, 35 shelter placements, four residential substance use treatment placements, and five other housing placements.
Sonoma County continues to monitor outside conditions that affect an individual’s stable housing situation including lingering effects of the wildfires on reducing rental locations and economic hardship caused by COVID-19. Despite the success of reducing the number of people who are experiencing homelessness in specific subpopulations, there are many challenges to overcome in achieving the goal of eliminating homelessness in Sonoma County and helping individuals and families access necessary services and support. Measure O, the Mental Health, Substance Use and Homeless Services countywide measure on the Nov. 3 ballot sought to reduce gaps in the homeless services system and the continuum of housing for the most vulnerable in the county, including those with serious and persistent mental illness and substance use disorders. The measure was approved having received roughly 68 percent of the vote.
The measure will fund services and programs for those with the most acute behavioral health needs and the homeless, specifically targeting wrap-around services needed to ensure successful housing placements.
“The passage of Measure O represents a watershed moment for the community,” said Barbie Robinson, Interim Executive Director of the Community Development Commission and Director of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services. “It will provide critical resources not just to reduce homelessness but to address some of the root causes of homelessness, including mental illness. I applaud the community for taking this step.”
This Point-In-Time Homeless Count was conducted on Feb. 28, 2020. The Department of Housing and Urban Development) approved a delay of the count from the end of January to the end of February due to the emergency declaration on homelessness related to the encampment along the Joe Rodota Trail.