Alameda County’s typically biennial ‘Point in Time’ homeless count numbers have been collected and published after being delayed a year by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Point in Time (PIT) count is done on a single day (in this instance, Feb. 23, 2022), capturing what the homeless population looks like at a specific moment in time. The count is conducted by EveryOne Home, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness.
Emeryville saw significant declines observing 91 homeless individuals compared to 178 three years ago (-51%). This was after the 2019 PIT showed a staggering 513% increase in Emeryville’s homeless population jumping from 29 in 2017.
The snapshot further broke down the unsheltered population in Emeryville by where they slept:
- 21% or 19 people living in tents
- 44% or 40 people living in vehicles
- 24% or 21 people living in RV’s
- 12% or 11 people living on the street
The combined totals of unsheltered individuals in the Berkeley-Emeryville-Oakland core was fairly flat showing an increase from 4,201 in 2019 to 4,237 in 2022.
Sheltered homeless in Berkeley-Emeryville-Oakland saw significant gains increasing from a combined 1,156 to 1,972 (+71%).
What is driving Emeryville’s decline is unclear although much of the Emeryville side of the large Ashby encampment was cleared in 2021 to make room for construction of an apartment complex.
Emeryville and Oakland teamed up to open the Family Matters Shelter at the former Rec. Center on San Pablo Avenue that can accommodate up to 100 people.
The City of Emeryville recently relied on what homeless activists call “hostile architecture” to deter camping at a site they own by placing boulders where a recurring encampment existed. The vacant, city-owned building on 40th Street is slated to one day be the Emeryville Arts Center.
— The E’ville Eye News 👁 (@TheEvilleEye) May 4, 2022
Alameda County Homelessness up 22%
Homelessness across Alameda County showed a 22 percent since the last count in 2019. The data shows an estimated 9,750 homeless people in the county. About 7,100 are unsheltered and about 2,600 are sheltered. More than half of the homeless population in the County are in Oakland. That estimate is 5,055, up about 1,000 people from 2019.
Though the numbers are discouraging to advocates for the homeless, some say the PIT count is still better than what could have been. Alameda County had been experiencing increases in homelessness of 20 percent per year before the pandemic, homelessness experts said.
Countywide, the increase in homelessness is due to two things, according to EveryOne Home. One is a 39 percent rise in the number of people living in vehicles such as cars and recreational vehicles. Nearly 4,000 people were estimated to be living in vehicles in February. About 2,300 hundred were in cars or vans and about 1,600 were in RVs.
A 53 percent jump in the number of people enrolled in shelter programs also contributed to the increase in the county’s homeless population.
Shelter programs to protect homeless people from COVID-19 blossomed in California following the start of the pandemic. Other accommodations also contributed to the rise in shelter, while traditional congregate shelters operated at a reduced capacity to protect homeless people from the coronavirus.
Moe Wright, chair of the leadership board of EveryOne Home said the number of homeless people in the county “reflects the effects of the pandemic.”
“A lot of measures and one-time funding came in from the Federal and State governments that focused on keeping people housed,” he said, “but still both sheltered and unsheltered populations have increased.”
Impact of Project Roomkey
A state-run program called Project Roomkey alleviated some homelessness. Project Roomkey provided shelter in motels for homeless people at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Another state-run homeless housing program was Project Homekey, which provided money to city’s like Oakland to buy properties to house homeless people on a temporary or permanent basis.
Wright said the county has a plan to reduce homelessness and it is “time to provide resources for” it.
He called for a long-term “investment in housing” for the county’s “very low-income citizens.”
In a statement, Gloria Bruce, executive director of East Bay Housing Organizations, which advocates for affordable housing, said, the Point in Time count “will help us address homelessness.”
She echoed Wright’s call for more housing.
“Homes solve homelessness – so let’s keep investing in housing solutions,” she said.
Taking bold action and working together can provide homes for people like it did in the pandemic, she said.
She lauded Project Homekey and Alameda County’s Measure A1, which provided homes for nearly 1,000 homeless people.
The project gets funding from the Federal Housing and Urban Development grants.
Feature Image: @zunguzungu via Twitter.