Homelessness in Alameda County has increased by 43% over the past two years, according to data gathered by volunteers on Jan. 31 in the county.
Every two years on the last day in January, volunteers fan out through the county from temporary headquarter locations to visit homeless encampments, people sleeping on park benches, and those in community homeless shelters to make the count.
The total counted on Jan. 31 was 8022 — with 1710 of them sheltered and 6312 unsheltered.
Analysis of the unsheltered population shows 34% were in tents, 23% in cars or vans, 22% in recreational vehicles, 20% outdoors near streets, and 1% in abandoned buildings.
In the Valley, Livermore had 179 unsheltered and 85 sheltered, for a total of 264 homeless. In Pleasanton, there were 70 homeless, all unsheltered.
Dublin had the second-lowest number of homeless in the county at eight, all of them unsheltered.
Piedmont had no homeless people.
The biggest homeless populations have been found to be 4071 in Oakland, 1108 in Berkeley, 608 in Fremont, and 487 in Hayward.
The relatively high numbers for Livermore in the Valley population might give the impression that the city attracts homeless people. However, that is not the case, said Livermore Housing & Human Services Manager Eric Uranga.
Most of the Livermore people found in the homeless count once had living quarters in the city, but like people elsewhere, a variety of factors led to their homelessness, he said.
Uranga did not have figures available, but countywide, some 78% of homeless were prior residents. They experienced a shift because of one or more factors in their lives.
The top six situations listed in survey results involved job loss, a factor mentioned by 13%; mental health issues at 12%, substance abuse at 10%, and evictions or foreclosures at 9%. Rent increases accounted for 9%, and 8% mentioned incarceration.
Although people are housed in jail, once they come out, they need a job to acquire housing. Having a criminal record can make them less desirable for hiring.
Becky Hopkins, assistant to Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho, said that it’s impossible to draw any direct-line causality from any of the factors.
“Homelessness is a very complex issue. Each person has unique conditions; it’s not a one size fits all,” said Hopkins.
The huge rise in homelessness is a big setback for the goal of getting everyone in the county housed by 2023. That was the goal announced in June 2018 by EveryOne Home, a countywide program devoted to eliminating homelessness.
Elaine de Coligny, executive director of EveryOne Home, said that the non-profit “is very disappointed, and also not surprised that the number of unsheltered homeless people in Alameda County continues to grow at an alarming rate.”
The previous survey, in 2017, found a 39% increase since 2015. That prompted EveryOne Home to update the original 2007 Plan to End Homelessness. The update was released in December 2018.
The update called for an annual budget of $330 million, and sought to get and keep all people permanently housed by 2023.
Although state, county and city governments increased subsidies, it was not enough to do the full job. “We still see two to three people becoming homeless for every one that gets housed,” said de Coligny.
When it comes to placing a homeless person into housing, Valley people won’t necessarily find shelter locally. While there are a few shelters in Livermore, such as Tri-Valley Haven, Shepherd’s Gate and the Livermore Homeless Shelter, most shelter opportunities in the county are west of the hills in the biggest cities. People are free to say no to leaving the Valley, said local housing specialists who work for the city governments.
Dublin helps support remedies for homelessness with donations, such as a $10,000 commitment to Tri-Valley Haven, said Dublin Senior Planner Jim Bergdoll.