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More homeless counted in the county over last year
• 2,091 live in county as the homeless
Homeless woman Ceres
Ceres doesn’t have a large number of homeless npersons but they do randomly appear, such as here on Morgan Road north of Service Road. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

The number of homeless persons in Stanislaus County may be up by 234 people compared to the 2022 count but the new number is fairly consistent with counts in 2019 and 2020.

The recent Point-In-Time (PIT) count conducted in January by the Stanislaus Community System of Care (CSOC) came up with 2,091 homeless persons, compared to the questionable count of 1,857 in 2022 due to fewer volunteers and a cold snap on the day of the survey that drove some off the streets and indoors somewhere.

The new number is vastly smaller than the 2,927 counted two years ago.

The January 2020 count pegged the homeless count at 2,107.

Modesto, the largest city in the county, of course had the most homeless with the count at 1,642; followed by Turlock, the second largest city having the second highest count at 233. Ceres had 17 homeless persons and Hughson and Keyes with three each.

The survey revealed that 55 percent of the county’s homeless (1,142) were living in congregate shelters, transitional housing, and in hotels or motels under the voucher program. The remainder of 45 percent (949) reported living on the streets, in parks, abandoned structures, under bridges or in their vehicles; and 40 percent told surveyors they sleep on the streets or on sidewalks.

“The PIT Count is an important resource to gauge how many people are experiencing homelessness in our communities,” said Emily Webster, vice-chair of CSOC. “The information helps us develop support services and housing to help this population.” 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that communities conduct an annual count of people experiencing homelessness persons who are in emergency shelter, transitional housing and Safe Havens on one night.

An overwhelming 62 percent indicated they have been homeless for at least three years.

While there are shelters to take in the homeless, those who decline shelter services indicated they don’t like shelter rules (32 percent), they don’t allow pets (20 percent) and due to substance abuse (14 percent).

When asked about their past experiences, 45 percent reported having been in jail or prison; 43 percent had been in the hospital; 21 percent had been in a treatment center; 15 percent had been in a Juvenile Hall; and 11 percent had been in the foster care system.

About a quarter of those surveyed (23 percent) reported they are living with a serious mental illness; 16 percent have a substance abuse problem; 12 percent are adults who have been victims of domestic violence; and two percent have HIV/AIDS.

When asked why they were homeless, the top six answers were:

• 27 percent were asked to leave where they were living;

• 26 percent said because of domestic violence in the home;

• 23 percent were unable to pay their rent or a mortgage;

• 19 percent lost their job and could not find work;

• 16 percent reported having an alcohol or drug addiction;

• 16 percent reported an illness of themselves or a family member.

The ethnic breakdown of those surveyed showed 71 percent are Caucasian, 37 percent as Hispanic and 13 percent black. 

The majority of the homeless counted were males, a total of 1,345. Females made up 731 of the count.

The largest age group was 35-44 with a total of 501 people.

Other statistics from the survey: 

• 45% of homeless surveyed said they spent time in jail or prison; 43% said they had stayed in a hospital overnight; and 21% reported that they had been in a treatment center. 

• 73% responded that they first became homeless in Stanislaus County; 62% said they had been homeless for more than 36 months in our community. 

• Nine percent (101) of the sheltered homeless were veterans.

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

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 being housed.