Homeless count underway in Contra Costa County

Contra Costa Health Services' Homeless Program staff and volunteers are collecting data on the county's homeless population.

January 26, 2011 1:55:43 PM PST
Contra Costa Health Services' Homeless Program staff and community volunteers are collecting data on the county's homeless population. The count happens every two years and helps the county receive federal support for homeless services and housing.

Trained outreach teams are fanning out in Contra Costa County, trying to put a number on the homeless population. The outreach teams are familiar with the homeless hangouts and encampments, like the one in Richmond where Samuel has been living off and on for a month. He has been living on the streets for years.

"I'm an addict, what can I say? I am an alcoholic and I have mental issues too," he said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the count and it basis its assistance level on it. HUD has spent $9 million per year in Contra Costa County on substance abuse treatment programs, job training and permanent housing.

"We have outreach teams that go out every day to encampment areas, where most people wouldn't be able to see homeless people living just by driving down the street. And so by familiarity and by doing it daily - they have a pretty good idea about where homeless people are living in encampment areas throughout the county," said County Homeless Program Director Cynthia Belon.

Belon says the number of people in encampments is decreasing, but the number of sheltered homeless is on the rise.

"We are starting to see folks that are through the economics of things they lost their homes, they lost their house, they lost their car, they are sleeping in their cars if they didn't lose their cars. They are finding themselves on the streets and they don't know how to do any of this, all the stuff out here," outreach worker Dudley Luckett said.

Outreach workers offered a little food and lots of programs for the homeless such as employment training, case management and a substance abuse treatment, which they offered to Samuel. He said he graduated from a substance abuse program before, and might be interested in trying it again -- maybe later.

The CCHS estimates that on any given day 4,000 are homeless in the county. More information about the count is available at www.cchealth.org.