Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, June 9 @ 1:23 p.m. / Homelessness, Local Government
462 Del Norters Identify As Homeless, According to New 'More Accurate' 2022 Point-in-Time Count
More than 460 individuals in Del Norte County identified as unhoused, according to results of the annual Point-in-Time survey released Tuesday.
It’s a more accurate depiction of homelessness in the community than previous surveys, thanks in large part to getting those who are unhoused involved in administering the survey, said Daphne Cortese-Lambert, founder of Del Norte Mission Possible.
This is a first, Cortese-Lambert told the Wild Rivers Outpost. And it’s one reason she considers this year’s Point-in-Time count a success.
“They were excited about being part of the solution,” she said. “I can’t say it was easy because it was really hard to track them down to do the surveys, but the results were great, so I’m pretty happy.”
These ambassadors are leaders in many of the homeless encampments in the county, Cortese-Lambert said. Because Del Norte is a rural community, those who are homeless often camp in places no one knows about and are often reluctant to trust survey-takers, she said.
“I love that the numbers are reflective of what’s going on, but I also see another part in the people who actually went to the training and did the PIT counts in the camps,” Cortese-Lambert said. “I saw them having a purpose and being a part of the solution instead of just sitting there and thinking this is never going to get better. It gave them hope.”
Del Norte’s 2022 Point-in-Time survey reached 462 people, including families, those living with a disability and senior citizens, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the survey was conducted from Jan. 26 through Feb. 1 and the data was compiled by the NorCalContinuum of Care, a seven-county consortium that includes Del Norte, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sierra, Lassen, Plumas and Modoc counties.
According to the results, of the 462 people surveyed, 227 reported sleeping in an outdoor encampment, 108 reported sleeping in a vehicle boat or RV and 69 reported finding shelter through an emergency shelter, transitional housing or permanent supportive housing program. Two-hundred and twenty-six people reported being homeless for more than three years.
Only 24 respondents reported living in Del Norte County less than six months, while 254 had lived in the community for more than 10 years.
Among those surveyed, 118 people were over 55 years old; 155 reported having physical disabilities and 104 said they were receiving disability benefits. One-hundred and sixty-nine respondents reported living with chronic health conditions, 199 reported behavioral health concerns and 154 reported having a history of substance abuse struggles.
This year’s Point-in-Time survey marks the first time volunteers went out into the field since the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, HUD exempted counties in the NorCal Continuum of Care, including Del Norte, from conducting outreach to the unsheltered population. As a result, only those who visited the Veterans Memorial Hall on Jan. 25 were counted.
DHHS workers counted a total of 110 sheltered homeless individuals in Del Norte County last year, according to the NorCal CoC’s 2021 report. Of those individuals, three indicated they were chronically homeless, five were veterans and seven were domestic violence survivors. Twenty-one individuals were under the age of 18.
In 2020, the last time a full count of sheltered and unsheltered individuals were counted, 248 individuals reported experiencing homelessness, according to DHHS Housing Services Manager Roy Jackson.
According to Cortese-Lambert, because of the pandemic, HUD also allowed the county to use Point-in-Time numbers from 2020. She said the data will be used to help Del Norte County and other communities in the Continuum of Care to pursue grant funding for transitional housing programs, permanent supportive housing programs and other services to help those struggling with homelessness.
Cortese-Lambert formed Del Norte Mission Possible in late 2019 with the goal of opening a full-time rescue mission.
Since then, Mission Possible has founded a women’s transitional home and is working with the Del Norte Senior Center and Open Door Clinic to provide showers to those who are homeless. In 2021, Cortese-Lambert founded the Winter Shelter-in-Place program, which provides tarps, raincoats, food and garbage bags to those living in local homeless encampments. In exchange, they help clean up the community.
Though the organization’s grant funding for that program is winding down, participants are bringing in 3,000-9,000 pounds of garbage a week, Cortese-Lambert said. The Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority then waives the fees required to take that material to the transfer station, she said.
Cortese-Lambert said she’s using FEMA funding to help someone who is homeless and is being released from Sutter Coast Hospital.
“The case managers are supposed to call us when someone who is homeless is being released,” she said. “If they have a wound and they need a clean environment, we’re going to give them a five-day stay in a motel and we’re going to provide them with food and case management. We’ve already had three participants in this program and (for) two of those participants, with case management we’ve been able to place them in some social services program where they are actually in motels. They are getting off the streets and we are working on getting them permanently housed.”
According to Cortese-Lambert, there is one population she felt was under reported in this year’s Point-in-Time Count, senior citizens.
“I’m going to actually talk to the seniors that I serve and ask them how they think that should be addressed,” she said. “How I can get a better number because That’s where I get my ideas — from empowering them and saying, ‘what do we need to make this better?’ And they have phenomenal ideas.”