Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

While preliminary numbers released in the county’s yearly Point-in-Time Count are showing an increase in the number of unsheltered people in the Crescent City area, organizers say it’s consistent with previous years’ data.

Del Norte County Department of Health and Human Services workers, along with volunteers from True North Organizing Network and Crescent City Foursquare Church went into areas around the city during the last week of January, collecting surveys from unsheltered people.

DHHS Coordinator Jesse Ferguson noted that for county purposes, “unsheltered” means staying in a place not designed for human habitation, such as abandoned buildings, small vehicles, encampments and outdoor public areas.

“Someone considered ‘temporarily sheltered’ would be residing in a motel paid by agency funds for a short period of time, persons residing in supervised public shelters, persons who’s interim shelter or transitional shelter is paid by a government agency, etc,” Ferguson said in an email.

Weather was a factor during the count. Ferguson said bad weather kept many persons inside the camps until the weather cleared.

Workers and volunteers also examined indoor areas where homeless persons are known to escape the weather.

“This included Daily Bread Ministries, The Del Norte Public Library, Rural Human Services Food Bank, Foursquare Church’s ‘Laundry Love’ event at the Econo Wash and the Veteran’s Hall as well as our DHHS offices” Ferguson said.

The numbers

In total, 189 surveys were collected, representing 141 unsheltered persons, 87 of whom live in encampments around the city. While that number is up from last year and 2017, Ferguson said the numbers are mostly consistent.

“In 2017 we collected 175 surveys, 114 unsheltered persons. In 2018 we collected 148 surveys, 72 persons counted as unsheltered,” he said. “This appears to demonstrate that our numbers of homeless have been more or less consistent from year to year with regard to the PIT count; not significantly increasing or decreasing. The fact that this year’s numbers included more “encampment” persons compared to prior years, yet still didn’t increase the total collected surveys, also demonstrates a consistent count.”

Of those surveyed, 21 stated they had served in a branch of the military.

When asked, 55 stated they had a mental health issue of those 18 reported substance use as well.

59 overall, stated they used substances such as alcohol or drugs.

When it came to crime, 50 stated they had felony convictions, 20 said those convictions keep them from being housed.

When asked, 45 said they had been homeless more than four times in a three-year period, but 68 said they were experiencing homelessness for the first time.

Of the total respondents, 117 were male, 71 were female.

County personnel are still tallying responses and compiling the data.

A big thanks

Ferguson noted the many people who helped or contributed. Along with True North and Foursquare Church, volunteers from Open Door Community Health Care and Sutter Coast Hospital also contributed.

One volunteer used his own experience in the homeless community to help with the count.

“Without the efforts of Foursquare Church volunteer Charles Willet, who went into the camps, we probably would have had a lower count this year,” Ferguson said. “Charles is formerly homeless and was homeless and staying in camps, primarily behind Safeway and the Ruth Compound. So, he knew the areas and the homeless population really well. Charles collected 100 surveys for us roughly 78 of those were from the camps.”

Sutter Coast donated hygiene products to be given out.

“This, by far, was the biggest united effort we have had for the PIT thanks to these, individuals, organizations and establishments,” Ferguson said.