Wednesday, March 19, 2008
This past January, the Homeless Network of Yakima County conducted its annual Point in Time survey to get a handle on the number of homeless individuals in the area.
Now, the results have been released.
According to Pat Brown, community relations director for the homeless network, annual surveys in the past have always been done outside.
Not this year. Each survey in Lower Valley cities and Yakima took place indoors.
"We really made a step forward this year in bringing the whole event inside," said Brown. "Somehow, it was far more appealing to have it inside."
Brown has participated in the survey in the past, when it was held outdoors. "It was so cold, it hurt."
Brown said the survey sites were busy all day on Jan. 24, when the survey took place and hot meals were also served. "That kind of takes the edge off in telling your story," said Brown.
Brown haled Sunnyside site coordinator Suzi Carpino for thinking ahead and having people come in to the survey site to talk about services they provide.
"Suzi was ahead of the curve in getting providers to participate in the homeless count," Brown said.
One thing that is surprising about the numbers is the increase of homeless women, said Brown. She said the number of women is edging "closer and closer" to the number of homeless men.
Another big surprise is the age group of the most homeless individuals that were surveyed. In the county there are 142 homeless individuals between the ages of 36 and 45.
"That sort of busts the stereotype of the stage in life where you're supposed to be the most stable," Brown said.
Brown said that many people are just one paycheck away from homelessness.
"This is a social issue for which almost no one is protected. This could happen to anybody," she said.
Another big surprise was the number of veterans who are homeless but not receiving any veterans' benefits. Of those surveyed, 97 were veterans but only 14 were receiving some kind of veteran benefits.
The leading causes for homelessness listed by those surveyed was drug and alcohol abuse. Brown said that about 75 percent of those surveyed listed one or more disabling conditions as a reason for homelessness.
Only 75 people of the 1,023 individuals who stepped forward for the survey had been homeless for one month or less; 179 reported being homeless for two to three months, 257 for four to 12 months and 345 reported being homeless for more than a year.
"When you look at that, you begin to look at chronic homelessness. It's one of those (things) that once it sets in, it's really hard to break," Brown said. There were 213 individuals surveyed that didn't respond to the question.
Another surprise that resulted from the survey is that homeless individuals listed food and clothing, not shelter, as their primary needs.
Of the 1,023 homeless individuals surveyed, 63.2 percent were from the Upper Valley and 35.2 percent were from the Lower Valley.
Brown said the results from the survey will be used to educate the public, and also to apply for grant funds to end homelessness.