By: Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer
(Portions Courtesy of the OC Partnership to End Homelessness)
Capturing the efforts of a mass community undertaking involving 750 volunteers, 41 agencies and private and public supporters, the recently released 2013 Orange County Homeless Count and Survey Report now reveals that almost 4,300 people are homeless on any given night in Orange County. More than 12,700 people are homeless over the course of a year.
The report of results from the Point-In-Time count, Orange County’s biennial survey and count of the area’s homeless population, conducted through leadership of the Commission to End Homelessness, OC Partnership, Focus Strategies, the Orange County Health Care Agency, with funding provided by the County through OC Community Services, show that:
- Approximately 40% of homeless people in Orange County are unsheltered; that’s almost 1,700 individuals living on the street, in a car, or in other places not meant for habitation.
- Approximately 1 in 5 homeless individuals are chronically homeless, meaning that they’ve been homeless for the last 12 months or at least 4 times in the past 3 years.
- There are an estimated 900 homeless children in Orange County. In fact, 37% of homeless people live in a household that includes a minor child, although the vast majority of homeless children are sheltered.
- More than 1 in 10 of Orange County’s homeless are veterans, the majority of whom (60%) are unsheltered.
- It’s estimated that there are 480 homeless individuals are living with severe mental illness; the majority (78%) are unsheltered.
- Among Orange County’s homeless who are living unsheltered:
- The average age is 48 years old.
- 1 in 5 are unsheltered females.
- Almost 6% are transitional age youth (18-24 year olds).
In comparing the 2013 count data to the last Point-in-Time count conducted in 2011, this year’s survey revealed a 23% increase in number of homeless individuals and families who were in a sheltered environment, a significant improvement. The data also showed a 5% decrease in the number of chronically homeless individuals counted. The chronically homeless are often the hardest to house, but the Point-in-Time found that these individuals are more often utilizing shelter than in previous years – just 4% in 2011, now 16% in 2013.
Beginning at 4:00 a.m., Saturday, January 26, county employees and volunteers ventured into areas where homeless take refuge, often near areas such as Mary’s Kitchen in Orange, where homeless receive food and showers.
Third District Supervisor Todd Spitzer and his staff participated in the Point-in-Time count. The survey, which takes place every two years, is critical in determining federal funding received by the county to serve the homeless population.
“I want to thank all the staff and volunteers, including several of my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, who participated in such an important event,” Spitzer said. “It was such an eye-opening experience speaking with homeless individuals in our county and learning their stories. I look forward to working with my fellow Supervisors to make positive changes in efforts to find solutions to homelessness.”
In addition to helping Orange County better understand and respond to homelessness in our region, Point-in-Time data also helps the County and homeless service providers allocate resources and prepare for projected changes in homeless policy. Several federal initiatives and requirements are calling for communities to soon shift from a system of homeless shelter and services to a housing “crisis resolution system” which focuses instead on transitional programs leading to stable housing as quickly as possible. Homeless count data about population and characteristics – such as the Point-in-Time count provides – are key pieces of the information needed to develop and refine this type of response system.