Point in Time Count finds people living at Snowcreek Athletic Club
The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] mandates that communities count their homeless populations every year on the same day. That day was Thursday, January 24, 2019. Volunteers in every municipality in the United States went out in the night and interviewed those living without a home.
In Mono, Inyo, and Alpine counties, this “Point-In-Time Count”, as it’s called, was headed by the Eastern Sierra Continuum of Care [ESCOC], a subsidiary of Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action [IMACA], Inc.
The results of the count will not be finalized for another two to three weeks, according to IMACA Housing and Planning Director Larry Emerson.
“I am not sure how this year is going to pan out,” Emerson said. “I’ve heard people say there are less [homeless than last year], and I’ve heard people say there are more.”
The volunteers of the ESCOC used a HUD issued form to interview homeless people.They asked their interviewees for demographic information, information on how long they have been homeless, and personal information regarding risk factors. Examples of personal questions were, “Are you HIV positive,” or “Do you drink alcohol or use drugs?”
County Supervisor Jennifer Halferty, who volunteered for the count, said that the people she interviewed were all approachable.
“Everybody wants to tell their story,” she said.
If for whatever reason a person does not want to tell their story, or if they are asleep or unreachable, the volunteers can fill out an observational report where they infer what they can about a person.
In addition to the one night count on January 24, ESCOC conducts a “service based count” for the following seven days, ending on Thursday, January 31. This process asks any person who might come in for social services provided by IMACA or one of its partners if they were homeless on January 24. The ESCOC asks people for their initials in an attempt to prevent duplicate counting. The partners include organizations like Mono County Behavioral Health, Mammoth Lakes Housing, and Mammoth Mountain Staff Accommodations.
In 2017, the ESCOC counted 121 people: 0 in Alpine County, 120 in Inyo, and 1 in Mono. In 2018, the total was 157: 0 in Alpine, 110 in Inyo, and 47 in Mono.
The reason for the dramatic increase in Mono County from 2017 to 2018 was simply improved counting efficiency.
“Two years ago we didn’t do a good count,” Halferty said. “The weather was bad and we weren’t well organized.”
The majority of homeless people in Mono County live in their cars, according to Emerson. Halferty said that last year they discovered that many people were living in their cars near Snowcreek Athletic Club and use the club to shower and change. This was true for the 2019 count as well.
“One of the people who we interviewed who lives out of their car said that 40-60 people who live in their cars use Snowcreek’s facilities,” said Halferty.
Halferty also said that there were noticeably more people this year living in their cars on the Mammoth Scenic Loop and around Ormat’s geothermal plant than last year.
“I haven’t seen the figures but I would assume they are up,” she said.
In order to incentivize people to take part in the survey, the volunteers gave out gift bags. These bags included essentials like deodorant, toothpaste, a beanie or a blanket, and a gift card to the nearest supermarket.
Halferty thinks that this count is a crucial step towards alleviating a statewide crisis.
“California has a problem with homelessness,” Halferty said. “Governor Newsom’s draft budget allocated a lot of money for homelessness.”
As for Mono County’s homeless population, Halferty believes that the high price of housing has everything to do with it.
“People think a car is more economical, but I think if they could find a place that is reasonably priced, they would rather have indoor plumbing.”