Sacramento's 2013 homeless count: a rise in homelessness?

SN&R has acquired the numbers from last January’s homeless count run by Sacramento Steps Forward. In total, volunteers in the city snapshot-count found 2,538 total homeless people, 786 of them unsheltered:

They counted 432 chronically homeless individuals. This is a marked increase (22.4%) from 2011's numbers (the last time the count was held) of 353.

Also of note: a rise in persons in homeless families. Steps Forward volunteers checked off 801 people in homeless families. 2011's numbers showed 604. This is an increase of 32.6 percent.

Steps Forward noted a sharp decline in homeless persons with HIV/AIDS and a short drop in victims of domestic violence.

Veteran numbers have gone virtually unchanged, something the Obama administration may want to look at if they want to follow through on their initiative to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

The homeless count is a somewhat controversial undertaking, with critics claiming that the numbers in these counts are always low, and do not reflect the marked homelessness problem we see in our streets today [I could point out a couple of these critics in the SN&R newsroom].

It behooves our nation’s homeless to go unseen on the streets at night (this year’s count took place in wet conditions, between the hours of 8 p.m. and midnight). Additionally, as the count is still in its nascent years, officials are still working to perfect methodology.

Sacramento Steps Forward took the reins from Sacramento County for the first time in this year’s count. This increases the likelihood of count method differences. Volunteers back in January agreed that things were run differently than in 2011.

Anyone working in policy, however, will tell you that the first step in dealing with a problem is pulling together numbers on it. That’s why officials feel the homeless count is important. The national homeless count numbers will be aggregated by HUD in the coming weeks. You can be sure that they will affect policy and, in all likelihood, allocations of funding on a national level.