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Homeless numbers down

Tim Sullivan (center) reviews data presented to the Yakima County commissioners yesterday in Yakima with Network staffers Ellie Lambert (L) and Avery Zogelman (R). The trio were at the Yakima County Commissioners meeting to share the data from the Jan. 30 Point in Time count held throughout the county. Sunnyside’s homeless count revealed a steep drop in the number of individuals surveyed.

Photo by Julia Hart.
Tim Sullivan (center) reviews data presented to the Yakima County commissioners yesterday in Yakima with Network staffers Ellie Lambert (L) and Avery Zogelman (R). The trio were at the Yakima County Commissioners meeting to share the data from the Jan. 30 Point in Time count held throughout the county. Sunnyside’s homeless count revealed a steep drop in the number of individuals surveyed.

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Yakima County Commissioner Mike Leita questions the number of homeless people living in the county during Tuesday’s presentation of the Homeless Network of Yakima County Survey report. According to the figures the largest number of individuals who are newly homeless are in the 18-25 age brackets.

YAKIMA – The results of the Yakima County Point in Time homeless survey are in and the results show a county wide 12.6 percent decrease from last year’s homeless numbers, according to Tim Sullivan of the Homeless Network of Yakima County.

In Sunnyside, the numbers were dramatically decreased from 2013’s count of 73 homeless to 27, a 63 percent drop, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said several factors may have led to the steep decline. He attributed the second change in location for the count from a central location to an outlying location and the lack of transportation to the location may have all contributed to the sharp decrease in numbers.

The 2014 Point in Time Count was held the Sunnyside Community Center in late January. The attendance in addition to a lack of outreach volunteers all contributed to the low count, Sullivan said.

Sullivan presented the Point in Time count data collected last January to the Yakima County commissioners Tuesday morning, saying that the survey found 785 people were homeless in Yakima County. Last year more than 900 people were counted during the January survey.

This year, only 47 were found to be living without shelter in the county, while the remainder were considered sheltered.

“The sheltered designation describes a person who had a temporary or transitional shelter the previous night.

“Or it could mean an individual temporarily staying with friends or relatives (couch surfing),” Sullivan explained. “Unsheltered refers to those living on the street or in their car.”

Yakima city recorded the largest number of homeless at 631, with Toppenish following with a 43 homeless count, and Wapato showed 41 homeless individuals following the survey.

This is the ninth year the Homeless Network of Yakima County has held surveys to track the homeless in the county and municipalities, Sullivan said.

“On average the 654 individuals, who are sheltered by various agencies in the county, account for 83 percent of the total homeless counted this year,” he explained.

Over the past several years the Homeless Network has worked with agencies to increase the number of beds available for sheltering to help lower the number of unsheltered individuals in the county.

Sullivan said the count serves as a tool for service agencies and local governments to spot trends in homelessness and to evaluate the success of existing programs.

One problem is the increase in unsheltered young adults. The 2014 numbers show an 11 percent increase in the number of adults ages 18 to 25 listed as homeless. It is a little hard to define the number of teenagers who are by definition homeless, as they are very secretive about their housing situations, Sullivan said.

The largest factors for teens being homeless come from changes in family situations, divorce, death or loss of income.

For adults the factors include substance abuse, mental health, physical disabilities preventing individuals from working, loss of employment. Among the highest needs reported by those counted in order to stabilize their lives was job training, placement, transportation, food and health care.

Sullivan said the Homeless Network continues to review the 2014 homeless count to identify gaps in services, and will continue to develop and implement plans to close the gaps.

The Point in Time survey is conducted annually by the network and is a requirement for jurisdictions which receive federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD estimates the homeless population is actually three times the number of those actually counted.

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