A formal count of Sacramento County’s unsheltered homeless population will take place next month for the first time in three years.
The federally funded Point-In-Time count usually takes place every two years, but was canceled in 2021 due to the pandemic. As many as 500 volunteers will be needed this year for the in-person canvassing, according to Lisa Bates, chief executive officer of Sacramento Steps Forward, the nonprofit that runs the survey.
“Doing this very important count is going to give us a lot of data and information on how to develop better strategies to address homelessness,” Bates said.
Volunteers must be 18 years or older, able to show proof they are fully vaccinated and attend a training session. During each interview, they will ask homeless individuals a variety of questions, including age, race, ethnicity, how long they have experienced homelessness and the types of services they access.
This year, they will also ask interviewees what actions communities can take to address homelessness, how the pandemic has affected their circumstances and about their vaccination status, Bates said.
The most recent count in 2019 found more than 5,500 people experienced homelessness in the county, an increase of 19 percent over two years earlier.
Researchers and advocates say the surveys record only a portion of a community's homeless population and undercount the total population of residents who are housing-vulnerable. Local government officials and homelessness advocates also say the number tallied three years ago has likely grown significantly, due to continued high housing costs and the effects of the pandemic.
This year’s count will take place on the nights of Feb. 23 and Feb. 24. Volunteers are needed in Sacramento, Elk Grove, Folsom and Rancho Cordova.
Bates said taking part in the survey offers not only a chance to help, but also “an opportunity to understand homelessness at the ground-level.”
“Being out in communities, seeing where people are living, having an opportunity to interview if you choose to do that just gives you a really rich experience and hopefully a better understanding of our situation here in Sacramento,” she said.
All communities across the country are required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct the surveys.
For more information and to sign up, visit sacstepsforward.org.
Correction: A previous version of this story included the wrong year for when the previous point in time count was canceled. It was 2021.
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