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Homeless numbers down

Submitted by on 1, July 10, 2009 – 6:00 amOne Comment

apc2The number of people in Alameda County who are homeless has declined 10 percent since 2007, a newly released survey of the county’s homeless population shows. And part of the credit goes to the Alameda Point Collaborative, which has converted much of its housing into permanent homes for formerly homeless people.

The survey results, which were released this week by the county’s EveryOne Home program, found that the number of homeless people in the county dropped from 4,831 in 2007 to 4,341 this year. In the subsection of the county that includes Alameda, the numbers dropped 11.5 percent from 2003 to 2009, from 925 to 819 (though it’s fair to note that in a report issued by the city last year, they estimated the numbers could be higher).

The report issued by EveryOne Home credited the Collaborative and other programs like it for helping reduce the numbers by converting transitional homes, which are meant to house people for up to 24 months, to permanent housing (the Collaborative was the first homeless service provider in the region to do so, Executive Director Doug Biggs told me).

Biggs said the Collaborative has converted 130 of their 200 housing units to permanent housing, and that they plan to convert another 20 to 30 of their units to permanent housing over the next few years.

Proposition 63, which provided funding for programs to help people with mental illnesses, also played a big role, Biggs and the report said. The report showed the number of chronically homeless people down 18 percent since 2007.

Unfortunately, the news is not all good: While the number of people who are literally homeless has dropped, the number of “hidden homeless” – folks who are couch surfing with friends or relatives, staying in a motel or facing imminent eviction – have increased by 168 percent since 2003, the last time the data was collected. Many of the roughly 3,000 folks in this category are victims of the ongoing recession, the report says.

Biggs said he was expecting far more people to qualify for the Collaborative’s housing based on the calls and applications that were picked up during its recent one-week application period. But he said that the numbers of qualified applicants were about 800 families, the same as last year.

He said the number of “hidden homeless” who don’t qualify for the Collaborative’s housing under federal rules was easily more than double what it was last year. “Unfortunately these folks don’t qualify for housing at this time, but unless the economic situation improves, we could see them at next year’s application period,” he said.

The city, meanwhile, is increasing its stock of housing for homeless people. In August, it’s set to open Shinsei Gardens, a 39-unit apartment complex for formerly homeless vets and disabled people and their families. They’re also moving forward with plans to create new housing for homeless people on the North Housing parcel at Alameda Point.

The city is also slated to get more than a half million dollars in federal stimulus money to help people impacted by the recession and has put together a plan that would use the money to prevent homelessness and help those who have become homeless find new housing quickly. The plan must be fully implemented by September 30.

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