The homeless population in Santa Cruz County has dropped 3.6 percent since last year, but a growing number of people contribute their homelessness to rising rents, the county said in a report Monday.
There are currently 2,167 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in the county, according to the point-in-time count on Jan. 31, which was followed by a survey of 399 homeless individuals and families. Ten percent of the group said prohibitive housing costs have caused them to be homeless – more than double the percentage from last year’s count. A third are employed and 75 percent lived in Santa Cruz County before becoming homeless, the county said.
Loss of employment was the most common cause of homelessness, with 26 percent saying they became homeless after losing their job, down from 33 percent in 2013. About 30 percent said they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or behavioral health issues and 39 percent have a disability preventing them from living independently.
The positive trend in overall homelessness may be a result of increased outreach and the allocation of $9.6 million in Homeless Emergency Aid Program funding, but the region has struggled to find a place for its homeless since declaring a shelter crisis last January.
In April, nearly 200 residents of the Ross Camp at Gateway Plaza were forced to relocate after a federal judge shot down a human rights appeal in a civil suit against the city of Santa Cruz.
A housing crisis throughout the Bay Area saw San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Contra Costa counties all reporting jumps in their homeless populations this year, with increases in Alameda and Contra Costa as high as 42 percent.