The number of homeless residents surveyed this week in Tuolumne County was similar to 2009, but the actual number living on the streets could be much greater.
Two years ago, Tuolumne County reported 186 homeless residents, and ATCAA Housing Resources Director Beetle Barbour says the 2011 count conducted this week looks to be around 185. She notes that the study officially concluded yesterday, but some volunteers may still drop off some remaining surveys to her office that were completed late in the day. Barbour says unfortunately, the final count really doesn’t paint the entire picture when it comes to the county’s homeless problem.
“This is the first year where we had a large number of people refuse to survey,” says Barbour. “Our volunteers reported back to me that time after time, many homeless people would say ‘no’, walk away, or appear angry.”
The homeless residents that agreed to take the survey were given a basket with food items.
“I felt very sad this year because I encountered a lot of people that don’t seem to have any hope and were very distressed,” says Barbour. “Many don’t see any way out of their situation. I’m not sure what the solution is for the homeless problem, but I’m hoping people in the community can be inspired to come forward and help us find solutions.”
Those surveyed were not asked to give their name or social security number. The survey is carried out in January, partially because it gives somewhat of a clearer snapshot of the homeless population. Those that are found living outdoors in the cold winter months have likely exhausted all options for housing. The surveys were conducted around homeless camps and at places in the county providing free meals for homeless residents. The numbers are given to H.U.D., and are used for determining eligibility for federal grants and projects designed to reduce the homeless population.