The upcoming Point-in-Time Census is not to simply count those experiencing homelessness in Lassen County — it’s to better estimate the number of people who are experiencing homelessness while simultaneously collecting information from them to better understand who they are, while gaining needed data for future funding opportunities, organizers say.
Lassen County is one of the counties in the NorCal Continuum of Care, a consortium of individuals and organizations with the common purpose of planning a housing and services system for people who are homeless.
Headed by the Shasta County Housing and Community Action Agency, the CoC includes Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Del Norte, Modoc, Siskiyou and Shasta counties, is responsible for managing Housing and Urban Development funds for homelessness and is uniquely positioned to identify system needs and take steps to address them with the collaboration and partnership of community stakeholders, per the CoC’s website.
One of the requirements for the CoC is conducting the annual PIT Count.
“(The count is) going to help the community in the long run to help provide housing. Our goal is to provide permanent or temporary housing to those who are homeless,” said Lassen County Behavioral Health Director Tiffany Armstrong. “The more we know about how many are actually homeless, the better we can serve those folks to get them stabilized.”
In preparation for the upcoming count, event organizers are hoping to better explain the purpose, and reduce some of the stigma before the enumerators take to the streets early in the morning Jan. 23 for the street-based portion of the count.
“It’s our job. It’s our obligation to count how many in our community are homeless so that we can get an accurate count to hopefully provide for (them through funding),” said Armstrong.
According one of the count’s organizers, Jessica Stading, housing grant specialist, the grants the county applies for throughout the year are dependent on the count’s numbers.
“The funding strictly comes based off of those numbers, so we want to be as accurate as possible so we can get the accurate funding to support those individuals,” said Stading.
The PIT Census takes place the last 10 days of January nationwide and has three different types of counts: the shelter and institution count, the street count and the service-based count.
The three counts will reach out to those experiencing homelessness, and surveys will be conducted.
The shelter count will calculate individuals or families living in a supervised public or private shelter designated to provide temporary arrangements.
The street count, set for early in the morning Jan. 23, will have trained enumerators deploying across Susanville and surrounding areas asking those experiencing homelessness to answer survey questions about their housing situations and characteristics.
Teams of three will search for those experiencing homelessness in areas including abandoned buildings, riverbanks, bridges and crossroads, where they will ask questions identifying the person’s situation.
Armstrong stressed these interactions are strictly confidential.
The service-based count will reach out to various organizations that provide services to those experiencing homelessness, including medical centers, Crossroads, Lassen Family Services, Salvation Army, the Family Resource Centers, Lassen Community College, behavioral health, Judy’s House and Veteran Services.
There will also be magnet events in several areas, including Westwood, Bieber/ Nubieber and Herlong/ Doyle.
Overall, Armstrong noted the count was an important part of helping the county as a whole.
“People always say, ‘How is it going to help today?’ But it’s not. It’s really putting the foundation in for today so we can provide and have the access to the resources later to help provide some sort of housing for them. But we really don’t know how many currently we’re serving when it comes to the homeless,” said Armstrong. “So that’s why it’s so crucial to count them in our community.”
Who is experiencing homelessness locally?
Armstrong said there has been some misunderstanding about how many people experiencing homelessness the county is serving, and who is truly without a home.
That’s one reason the count is held in January.
Nationwide, the PIT count takes place during what’s typically the coldest days of the year, and aims to reflect the true number of people who do not have a place to go.
That’s a reason the count is not conducted during warmer months.
“If you think about it, in January, most folks aren’t just wanting to live out in the snow,” said Armstrong. “These are our family. This is our friends, our neighbors, people who grew up here, went to high school here, who have vested interest here. Because obviously I don’t think they’d be here if it wasn’t for that.”
Last year’s count, according to the data available through the Nor Cal CoC 2019 PIT report, identified 46 people experiencing homelessness in Lassen County. However, last year’s count, due to staffing vacancies, produced low numbers.
Of those 46, 20 were sheltered men, with 15 sheltered women.
Seven men were unsheltered and there were four unsheltered women counted.
One sheltered person was a veteran, 16 sheltered had a felony conviction, two were unsheltered, there was one sheltered family, there were five youth, ages 18 to 24, in a sheltered environment, one in the age group was unsheltered, and there were three sheltered children identified as homeless.
What does the census help with?
Some of the grants dependent on the data are for rent subsidies, deposits, and move-in expenses, all of which help the county with its Housing First model.
“It’s been statistically proven that housing people first helps them break those barriers of whatever problems they’re dealing with,” said Stading. “Asking someone on the river to become sober in order to go into housing isn’t realistic.”
Per the 2019 Nor Cal CoC PIT report, about 46.88 percent of households who rent are overburdened in Lassen, which identifies households who pay more than 30 percent of their gross income.
There are 9,707 households in the county, and 34.94 percent of households in Lassen County are renters.
“Rental assistance is a type of housing subsidy that pays for a portion of a renter’s monthly housing costs, including rent and tenant paid utilities.
This housing assistance can come in the form of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, project-based Section 8 contracts, public housing, USDA Rental Assistance (in Section 515 properties) as well as HUD Section 202 and 811 properties for elderly and disabled households. There are nine affordable apartment complexes; 381 low income apartments; and 263 apartments that are rent assisted in Lassen County,” per the 2019 PIT report.
Questions or concerns?
The county is preparing for this year’s federally mandated count and wants to answer any questions or respond to any concerns the public might have prior to the count.
Stading and Grace Poor, housing program coordinator, are heading up the PIT census.
They can be reached by phone at 251-2751, or 251-8336, respectively. They can also be reached via email at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.