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Homelessness at record high in Stanislaus County
Homeless at Carls
Ceres has its share of homeless persons, like this man who was photographed camping at the Carl's Jr. restaurant on Hatch Road in March 2019. The problem is worse in neighboring cities of Modesto and Turlock. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

The number of homeless individuals in Stanislaus County jumped 28 percent from last year during the annual point-in-time count for 2021.

Every two years, during the last 10 days of January, the U.S. Department of Housing & Community Development requires communities across the country to conduct a comprehensive count of people experiencing homelessness. The goal is to measure the prevalence of homelessness in each local community.

The Stanislaus Community System of Care released its 2021 Point-In-Time homeless count last week identifying 2,927 homeless persons in Stanislaus County, a record since homeless service providers began conducting the snapshot survey back in 2005. The tally is up by 820 people from last year when 2,107 homeless people were counted. 

“The PIT count provides us with vitally important information for our communities,” said Jason Conway, chairman of the CSOC. “It gives us a foundation to develop support services and housing for the homeless.”

The Stanislaus CSOC listed a number of contributing factors of the increase in homeless individuals in their report, including:

• More clients were unsheltered the night of the count as shelter bed capacity was down 48% due to Centers for Disease Control mandated social distancing requirements; and 

• Client enrollment in the Stanislaus County Coordinated Entry System increased 32% compared to 2020 as a result of increased community outreach efforts. 

The city of Ceres has not made efforts to address homelessness.

Due to the increase in homeless individuals and families in the city of Turlock, the Turlock City Council issued a proclamation of a local emergency in March and approved spending $498,417 to assist shelter providers with additional costs of operations and to accommodate the increase in people served. 

This year’s unsheltered homeless count was different from years past due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unsheltered count that would normally be done by volunteers actually counting those homeless out and about in communities across the county was cancelled out of concern for the health of survey volunteers and people experiencing homelessness. Instead, data for the count was obtained from the county’s Homeless Management Information System database and the Housing Inventory Count survey, a count of homeless individuals sheltered by community agencies. 

During the pandemic, HUD granted flexibility to counties to use HMIS data from Continuums of Care that consistently collect and update their database of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in real time. The sheltered point-in-time bed count (Housing Inventory Count) went on as scheduled on Jan. 27, 2021. All agencies that provided emergency shelter, transitional housing and rapid re-housing counted the number of homeless individuals in their care. Community Services Agency Housing and Homeless department staff worked with agencies to ensure an accurate count. 

Data from both this sheltered count and the HMIS were used to identify the total number of homeless individuals in Stanislaus County.

The annual count data is critical to determine the scope of homelessness, define existing resources and identify any gaps in services in Stanislaus County. Each year, HUD requires communities to count the number of people experiencing homelessness in each county across the United States. 

The survey data is used to help determine the amount of funding available to communities to develop housing and supportive services for people moving from homelessness to independent living. The information helps service providers, policy makers, funders and local government gain a better understanding of the population currently experiencing homelessness. 

The 2021 Homeless Shelter Count was organized by the Stanislaus Community System of Care, which includes local governments, non-profits and homeless providers. For more information, visit

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