East Bay homeless counts show more women, seniors living on streets

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Contra Costa County is taking a tally of unsheltered homeless from Tuesday to Friday.

The numbers were up last year, and the expectation is they are still on the rise in 2019 with more homeless women and seniors.

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The homeless in Walnut Creek say the resources are there to help them, and more homeless are coming there because of it. A man named Don Steeves who's been on the streets of Walnut Creek for 20 years says it's getting hard now to find a place to sleep.

He says people come out of a local grocery store downtown and offer groceries to him on a regular basis. He says with severe arthritis it's harder being homeless at age 68.

He sleeps under an awning at a carpet store a block or two away from the upscale Broadway Plaza shopping area. The number of homeless seniors went up 88% during the last count.

Jaime Jenett with Contra Costa County homeless services said, "We are really seeing an increase in the number of seniors, first time homeless, showing up at our shelters. 70, 80, even 85-years-old with no other place to go. It's heartbreaking for everybody. "

66-year-old Mike Finnegan is one of them. "Homelessness started with a couple of dudes walking around with big bags. There are more women out here now homeless and they have children," he said.

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Two homeless women in Bay Point described how they tag-team sleeping at night to keep from being sexually assaulted.

They put broken glass around their campsite to hear the crunch of oncoming footsteps.

One 53-year-old said 18-year-old men stalk her and want to have sex with her. She says she tells them she's old enough to be their grandmother.

"The incidence of women getting assaulted, particularly sexually assaulted once they're on the street is I think the average is within two to three weeks," Jenett said

Tiffany Hicks was a substitute teacher. Then a DUI and a missed rent payment put her on the streets. She said "your landlord is gouging you because they want to make the money because they are struggling too."

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She says, "And they will put you out for somebody who can pay. So you're only one paycheck away. There is more homelessness. No one can afford this rent. This is crazy."

Last year's survey tallied 2234 unsheltered homeless in Contra Costa County. That number is expected to rise when the results of the 2019 survey are released in April.

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