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Total Sonoma County homeless population declines, increases among younger people

The number of homeless people in Sonoma County declined 1.5 percent during the past year, according to the results of a point-in-time count in January.

The number of homeless people fell from 2,996 in January 2018 to 2,951 this January, according to the Sonoma County Community Development Commission.

The final tally showed a considerable decline in the number of people who have been continuously homeless for more than a year and in homeless families, county officials said.

Jenny Abramson, the Community Development Commission’s homeless services manager said:

“While our goal is to end homelessness outright, we are encouraged to see the numbers drop again. The decline in both chronically homeless people and families experiencing homelessness is quite encouraging.”

The commission said areas of concern include a near 20 percent rise in the number of young homeless people, a significant increase in people living in vehicles and the continued presence of an estimated 21,000 unstably housed people.

The unstably housed older adult population has declined due to post-2017 wildfire efforts and other social service interventions, Abramson said. A lingering effect of the 2017 wildfires, however, is young people having difficulty breaking into the local rental market.

Sonoma County officials hope to reduce the homeless population 20 percent in the next two years, according to the commission.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires counties to conduct a homeless count to be eligible for approximately $3.7 million annually.

The 2019 count drew 160 volunteers — the largest ever — and 90 guides who have experienced homelessness. Together they canvassed the county’s census tracts during the early morning hours on Jan. 25.

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