Count Showing Homelessness Down 29 Percent in Sacramento Is Questioned

Count Showing Homelessness Down 29 Percent in Sacramento Is Questioned

A homeless camp near Jibboom Street behind a motel in Sacramento, as seen on April 8, 2024, before it was swept by local authorities. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore
Travis Gillmore

6/19/2024

Updated: 6/24/2024

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A point-in-time count of homeless individuals in Sacramento released June 5 that shows a nearly 29 percent decline from 2022 is being questioned by some familiar with the situation on the street.
One Sacramento-based nonprofit focused on offering services to those experiencing homeless expressed skepticism about the count’s findings.
“[We do] not have data to support such an extreme decline,” Sacramento Loaves and Fishes said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times. Established in 1983, the group is funded by community donations and offers meals, health supplies, counseling, education, and, for women, overnight shelter.
“These numbers are incredibly difficult to believe and further highlight the trust issues with local government that our guests have consistently expressed over our many years of service.”
The group’s statistics show a 6.4 percent overall increase in guests and a 20.5 percent increase in meals served compared with the same time in 2023.
“All campus programs have reported serving more guests than last year, and we anticipate that our 2024 annual report will confirm those reports,” the nonprofit said.
Accurate data is essential, the group suggested, so that adequate funding levels are provided by state and local governments.
“Unhoused people in our community have experienced countless broken promises, and our concern is that these 2024 [point-in-time] numbers will negatively impact future government funding for housing and supportive services,” the group said.
Trash on the street after a homeless camp was swept in Sacramento, as seen on April 22, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Trash on the street after a homeless camp was swept in Sacramento, as seen on April 22, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Conducted over multiple days in late January and overseen by the nonprofit group Sacramento Steps Forward, the count found 6,615—including 2,671 sheltered and 3,944 unsheltered—homeless individuals countywide, down from 9,278 in the last count two years ago.
The point-in-time survey’s methodology could impact the accuracy of the count, as not every area in Sacramento County was canvassed for unsheltered individuals, and some locations were estimated with sampling calculations, according to the report.
“For ... large geographic areas like Sacramento, enlisting enough volunteers to canvass the entire geographical area for the unsheltered count is difficult,” the report reads.
“This method allows the count to produce statistically reliable estimates while only needing to canvass a select portion of the area.”
Areas with high probability of homeless camps were canvassed—with 1,875 people counted—while 131 areas were estimated using sampling data. That left the survey with a margin of error of about 10 percent, according to the report.
Other challenges included incomplete survey questionnaires, as some homeless people were reluctant to provide information, though partial surveys were also included in the count.
“This decision reflects the inherent difficulty in locating and surveying individuals experiencing homelessness and the desire to capture as much data as possible to inform effective interventions and support strategies,” the report reads.
With sweeps of homeless camps occurring regularly this year, according to shelters and homeless advocates, some individuals were moved before the count, which complicated the process.
“The city was sweeping so many of these places, there was nobody around,” Sharon Jones, co-founder of Camp Resolution and one of the volunteers who helped with the count, told The Epoch Times.
Camp Resolution, a county-authorized homeless camp in Sacramento, as seen on June 17, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Camp Resolution, a county-authorized homeless camp in Sacramento, as seen on June 17, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

“Where we were counting, they swept the area four days before, and in a place that usually had 300 to 400 people, we only found two.”
Camp Resolution currently has a population of 42 people, with a waiting list of more than 1,000 she said, suggesting the large number is due to a rise in the homeless population.
“The population has increased, definitely, with people losing their houses because they can’t pay rent,” Ms. Jones said.
Tents and RVs surround the camp, and none of those were included in the point-in-time count, she said.
“None of these people were approached,” Ms. Jones said. “That count is way off because I see people every day coming into our camp for services.”
One of those homeless individuals living next to the camp said the population is growing.
“There’s a lot more of us now than there were last year,” Lowell Duncan, a Sacramento local who has been living on the streets for 11 years, told The Epoch Times. “There’s not a decline ... if anything it’s 29 percent in the opposite direction.”
He said some homeless people choose not to be counted for fear of retaliation from law enforcement officials.
“The people out here are trying their hardest to stay under the radar,” Mr. Duncan said.
Another person temporarily living in a lot near the camp agreed, saying the homeless population is on the rise.
“Their numbers are wrong,” said ShaRie Dickerson, 42, working odd jobs trying to make ends meet.
She said more help is needed from the county and city to address the problem.
“They’re not doing anything ... but they’re trying to build this facade that they’re doing so much,” Ms. Dickerson said.
“They keep herding us around, and they tell us we can’t be in one area, but they push us off into another.”
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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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