A homeless man in Eureka.
Almost 1,500 people spent the night of Jan. 22 without shelter in Humboldt County, according to results of the Point in Time count released by the county Department of Health and Human Services.
The biennial count held Jan. 23 found that 1,473 people had experienced unsheltered homelessness the night before, more than double the number counted in 2017. That puts Humboldt County's rate of homeless people per 10,000 in population at about three times the state average of 34, according to U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development data.
The PIT count is part of a national effort to tally sheltered and unsheltered homeless people, as requirement by HUD. The numbers are then used to designate funding to help address homelessness and housing insecurity. On a single day in January, volunteers all over the U.S. head out to count and survey homeless people.
HUD defines the unsheltered homeless as “an individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport or campground.”
This year’s unsheltered count increased 120 percent from that of 2017, when the number of unsheltered homeless individuals counted in Humboldt County greatly decreased from 2015. A total of 668 people were counted in 2017 as opposed to the the 1,180 in 2015. Eureka’s homeless population decreased immensely in the last count, with only 206 people counted, down from 513 two years prior. This year, Eureka counted 653 unsheltered homeless people. Similarly, down south In Garberville and Redway, 220 unsheltered people were counted this year after the 2017 count failed to record a single homeless person in the area.
The biennial count directed by the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition is conducted almost entirely by volunteers and the coalition recruited more than 140 this year to count and survey people using a new software system, Sally Hewitt, co-chair of the HHHC and senior program manager with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, said in a press release.
“We are still finalizing some of the numbers from the surveys but we know this was a very successful PIT count,” she said. “This is due to the amazing work done by many volunteers who turned out early to begin counting and surveying people experiencing homelessness.”
Homeless individuals who chose to participate in the survey answered questions about their backgrounds, physical and mental health and where they slept the night before. And for the first time this year, individuals that did not want to participate were still counted and added to the census. The number of sheltered homeless individuals — those sleeping in “supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangement” — will be available soon.
“Thank you to all who participated and supported this work that directly benefits the communities of Humboldt,” Hewitt said. “Their work assures we will have the funds we need to help people into housing, to assist them in retaining housing and to help prevent currently housed people from becoming homeless.”
Here are the totals from DHHS:
The unsheltered count, below, indicates the number of people who slept in a place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation, the night before the Jan. 23, 2019 count.
Location: Number of people:
Eureka — 653
Arcata-Manila — 263
Garberville-Redway-Benbow — 220
McKinleyville — 121
Fortuna-Loleta-Ferndale — 83
Willow Creek-Weitchpec-Orleans-Pecwan — 49
Rio Dell — 40
Blue Lake — 14
Orick — 14
Petrolia — 10
Trinidad — 6
Total — 1,473