Homeless by the numbers

The 2017 Homeless Point-in-Time survey results show lack of local affordable housing

At first glance, the results of Butte County’s 2017 Homeless Point-in-Time Survey released last week (May 25) show that the local homeless population has grown by 76 percent since 2015, the last time the count was conducted. Upon further reading, however, it becomes clear that number isn’t a true representation of facts, as in 2015, there was no coordinator for the survey. So the 2017 report provides a more accurate picture of who is living without housing in Butte County.

Volunteers and service providers organized by the Butte Countywide Homeless Continuum of Care contacted 1,983 people experiencing homelessness and willing to participate in the survey during a 24-hour period in January. The majority of them—1,096 to be precise—reside in Chico, with 713 in Oroville, 120 in Paradise and the rest in smaller communities.

About half (49 percent) of participants qualify as chronically homeless and 555 people said they became homeless for the first time in 2016. The survey concluded that the No. 1 reason for homelessness is lack of affordable housing.

The survey also sought to determine the effectiveness of local ordinances that “focus on life-sustaining actions (sitting, lying down) of residents without homes.” Overall, it found that 478 individuals had received warnings for violating a local ordinance, 181 had been ticketed and 80 had been arrested.

Countywide, 46 percent of survey respondents said that they “no longer sit, lie down, sleep or keep property in certain places because of these laws.” And a full 83 percent said that sit/lie ordinances would not lead them to leave a community.