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Alameda County’s 2022 Point in Time count numbers have been released, and some cities like Oakland are seeing a jump in homelessness, the biennial data shows.
A point-in-time (PIT) count is done on a single day, capturing what the homeless population looks like at a moment in time. The project gets funding from Federal Housing and Urban Development grants.
According to the numbers, homelessness in Alameda County is up 22 percent since 2019.
Though the numbers are discouraging to advocates for the homeless, some say the PIT count is still better than what could have been, according to EveryOne Home, a nonprofit that conducted the PIT in February and works to end homelessness.
Alameda County had been experiencing increases in homelessness of 20 percent per year before the pandemic, homelessness experts said.
The data released Monday 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 people in Alameda County are in Oakland. That estimate is 5,055, up about 1,000 from 2019.
A ‘moral outrage’
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf calls homelessness a “moral outrage” and in a statement she chose to reflect somewhat on her city’s progress.
“Oakland made clear progress in reducing outdoor street homelessness and doubling our shelter capacity since the last PIT (point-in-time) count,” she said on Monday.
The number of homeless people who are sheltered in Oakland rose from 861 to 1,718 between 2019 and 2022.
But, Schaff added, “We know more investments are needed.”
Oakland has recently established cabin communities for homeless people and tiny homes, but the data show more needs to be done.
Countywide, the increase in homelessness is due to two things, according to EveryOne Home.
“A lot of measures and one-time funding came in from the federal and state governments that focused on keeping people housed, but still both sheltered and unsheltered populations have increased.”Moe Wright, EveryOneHome
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.”
Investing in solutions
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 cities 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.