(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

The number of homeless people in Marin County declined slightly since 2017, but the number of chronically homeless people fell sharply, according to the Point-in-Time homeless count and survey in January.

The final results of the Jan. 28 count were released July 31 by the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.

There were 1,117 homeless people in the January 2017 count and 1,034 in January 2019 — a 7 percent decrease. There were 359 chronically homeless people in 2017 and 257 in 2019 — a 28 percent reduction, according to the report.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a chronically homeless person as someone who has been homeless for at least a year, has experienced four episodes of homelessness totaling 12 months in the last three years, and a person who has a disability that prevents them from maintaining housing.

Marin County officials said the decreases reflect the county’s Housing First approach that addresses a person’s housing needs first before accessing social services. The nationwide Housing First approach is recognized as the best practice for addressing homelessness.

Marin County Health and Human Services has permanently housed 162 chronically homeless residents since October 2017, according to the report.

The 2019 report also found family homelessness decreased 28 percent and youth homelessness fell 11 percent. San Rafael and Novato saw reductions in unsheltered homelessness equal to 30 and 13 percent,  respectively, but Richardson Bay and West Marin saw increases in homelessness, according to the report.

Marin County residents who are identified as black or African American comprise 2.8 percent of the population, but they are 17 percent of the homeless population, county officials said.

Other data in the report show eight unaccompanied children under 18 and 99 unaccompanied youth 18-24, comprised 10 percent of Marin County’s homeless.

Sixty-seven percent of the 99 homeless veterans counted in January were unsheltered, and 66 percent of 320 homeless people age 50 and up were unsheltered.

The 2019 homeless report also found three-quarters of the homeless people in Marin are locals.

“By and large, people who become homeless stay where they have connections,” said Carrie Ellen Sager, HHS’s Homelessness Program coordinator.

“Those statistics are consistent with similar reports nationwide. This is a local problem, and these are our neighbors,” Sager said.