In 2012, Orange County adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness. Now, four years into that plan, the number of homeless people in the county is increasing, according to the latest data gathered in January during the Point-in-Time Count used to track the homeless.
In 2017, volunteers located 4,792 homeless people–an increase of 7.6 percent from the number found in 2015–during the one-day count.
Both of those counts, however, are well below the 8,333 homeless people who were counted in 2009.
In the ongoing effort to end homelessness, the county recently created a new position and hired Susan Price to be the director of Care Coordination. She released a report in 2016 that details how to fix many of the problems that hinder Orange County’s system of care for the homeless.
The report “An Assessment of Homeless Services in Orange County” offers several fixes for the 2-1-1 Continuum of Care system (CoC), which leads the homeless count and distributes federal dollars to organizations that serve the homeless.
In 2016, the CoC dispersed more than $23 million to shelters and programs in Orange County.
Those dollars are critical helping the homeless. Through other nonprofits such as the Illumination Foundation, CoC provides outreach to the homeless community and assesses their state of dependence on homeless services.
The homeless are then started on the process to get the help they need, which can be rental assistance, rapid rehousing or even extra help for the disabled.
Among the inefficiencies within county-wide homeless service programs, Price’s report found that:
- “Countywide resource coordination is fragmented and not easily navigated by those experiencing homelessness.”
- “The existing inventory of emergency shelter, transitional housing and permanent housing resources is insufficient to meet current needs in the County.”
- “Of emergency shelter resources, 71% are for families, single mothers or pregnant women. The County of Orange has built a safety net for homeless females with children, and there are few resources for single men and women who are chronically homeless.”
- “Specialized residential treatment facilities for acute mental health as well as detoxification units for substance abuse are limited in scope and unable to meet current needs.”
Approximately 11 percent of the homeless counted suffer severe mental illness and approximately 9 percent suffer from chronic substance abuse, according to the numbers reported in the 2016 Point-in-Time Count.
It’s difficult to determine how much progress has been made to address the key findings of the report issued last October.
The report’s author Susan Price did not return several requests for an interview and Orange County’s Public Information Officer Carrie Braun provided links to recent newsletters when asked about any updates.