Sonora, CA — For the Mother Lode region, the latest sombering figures in this year’s un-sheltered homeless survey reveal a rise in homeless families with children.
“Among the unsheltered living outside in 2010 we had only two [families] with children,” says Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency Housing Director Beetle Barbour. Even with rental assistance programs, which help, Barbour states, “This year, there were ten, literally, homeless families with children.” It is a compelling figure that housing officials say they will shortly be sharing with other agencies.
The Central Sierra Continuum of Care 2015 Point-in-time Unsheltered Homeless Census for Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, figures just now being released, will be mined for the next few months. Data, gathered every other year, provides a snapshot from a single reference date; in this case, January 28, although, due to the Mother Lode’s rural location, census takers were given a week to seek out its nook and crannies for the count.
In its census assessments, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) no longer considers “couch-surfers” as homeless. Barbour says that while they use those figures, local agencies include those who fall within this category in another count in order to track those who may be temporarily staying by permission, rent-free, in a spare room, basement, or literally, on someone’s couch, because they neither have a permanent living place or sufficient income to pay for one. Often, according to Barbour, families with school-age children fall within this category so they are able to get the kids ready for and keep them in school.
For a larger view of local homelessness among Mother Lode families, Barbour adds that, in the past year, just among the sheltered homeless population in Sonora, ATCAA counts 17 families with a total of 30 children.
Barbour says that HUD is trending towards “rapid re-housing,” which attempts to re-locate homeless from shelters to permanent housing within 15 days. While rental assistance is readily available for this, addictions, convictions, lack of money and jobs are often barriers. Locally, she points out that transitional housing, the Cal Works Welfare to Work program, and strong relationships with landlords willing to work with the homeless agencies, are more often providing housing agencies pathways for more successful outcomes.