Wednesday, 29 May 2024

US Census works to count the homeless



LAKE COUNTY – Several years ago a US Housing and Urban Development report estimated that 1 to 1.5 percent of people living in Lake County are homeless. In 2007 this translated to somewhere between 639 to 959 homeless persons in Lake County.

Who are the homeless?

  • 85 percent of homeless families are headed by single mothers with an annual income of less than $8,000;

  • 40 percent needing transitional housing are women, mostly fleeing domestic violence;

  • 25 to 40 percent of the homeless in Lake County are children;

  • There are more homeless children now than in the Great Depression;

  • Of all homeless men, 33 percent are veterans.

With the rapid rise of unemployment in Lake County these numbers are not likely to go down soon, but we can end homelessness if we as a community have a will to do so.

A more complete picture is needed if we are going to end homelessness in Lake County, but how do we get the better picture?

One tool in our arsenal is the US Census and the dozens of community agencies and churches that are already attempting to meet the needs of people presently experiencing homelessness.

On Monday and Wednesday of next week these groups have banded together to create a place where homeless people can come to be counted for the census and receive benefits.

The US Census count is safe and confidential. No information will be collected except the 10 questions on the census form and that information with not be shared with anyone outside of the census.

Even the Patriot Act does not have the power to require a release of information (despite what some You Tube videos are saying).

At two of the sites (Clearlake and Upper Lake) people coming to be counted will receive a backpack, one day’s worth of food, a flashlight and a hygiene kit. At the third site (Middletown) they will be provided with hot coffee, a continental breakfast and a hygiene kit.

The problem? We have to get the word out!

If you are part of a service agency that receives requests for help from people who are homeless (think couch surfers and people living out of their cars, as well), please refer them to one of these three sites.

If you see someone asking for money or carrying a sign saying they are homeless and will work for food – don’t pass them by without looking them in the eye. Ask if they heard that free food is available if they will just show up and be counted.

The sites are as follows:

  • Monday, March 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lighthouse in Clearlake, located at 14147 Lakeshore Drive;

  • Wednesday, March 31, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the United Methodist Church in Middletown, located at 15833 Armstrong St.;

  • Wednesday, March 31, from noon to 4 p.m. at Northshore Christian Fellowship, located at 9456 Main St., Upper Lake.

How will a more accurate count help us to end homelessness in Lake County?

First and foremost it will give us a more accurate picture of the problem, but the US Census data also controls the disbursement of millions of dollars of aid that will go to programs like those addressing food insecurity and homelessness. Please, help Lake County be counted!

Rev. Shannon Kimbell-Auth leads the congregation at United Christian Parish in Lakeport and is a member of the Lake County Complete Count Committee for this year's US Census effort.

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