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Sacramento State researcher believes homeless encampments have 'probably doubled' since 2019

The last Point in Time count from 2019 said 5,570 people were experiencing homelessness on a given night, which was a 19 percent increase from 2017.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — A researcher from California State University, Sacramento, says the number of tents in Sacramento County has probably doubled, if not more so, since the last Point in Time Count in 2019.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development mandated count looks at how many people are experiencing homelessness on any given night. It happens every two years with hundreds of volunteers, but was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That's why Arturo Baiocchi, a Sacramento State Associate Professor at the Division of Social Work, stepped in to help by conducting a smaller scale sample Point in Time study. The study was a random sample of encampments across Sacramento County.

The count found there is at least 100 sizable encampments, meaning five or more tents in a row, and there’s also more, smaller encampments than they’ve noticed before.

The majority of people interviewed in tents, 98 percent, said they are from Sacramento and 75 percent of which said they spent most of their lives within the county.

The last Point in Time count from 2019 said 5,570 people were experiencing homelessness on a given night, which was a 19 percent increase from 2017. While this sample study only looked at tent encampments specifically, Baiocchi says the number of encampments county-wide have probably doubled.

"Many people debate about, is it mental illness, is it substance use, is it people down on their luck, is it the housing crisis?" Baiocchi said. "It's all of those things, but in our current affordable housing crisis, all of those issues get kind of amplified and that is the number one issue that's really driving homelessness."

He says a full Point in Time count is needed to find out how much homelessness has increased since 2019, outside of just the number of tents we see around the county. It's been rescheduled for January 2022.

The study didn’t include young adults or families with young children, like Felicia Washington, a mom in south Sacramento who only recently became homeless a few months ago and now lives in her car to make ends meet with her two daughters, ages 6 and 10.

"We don’t have a choice, because I put my tent somewhere else and they were like get out of here, they don’t care that I have kids, but I don’t have a choice,” Washington said.

Washington says she’s been trying to get into shelters, but there haven’t been any openings, despite calling daily. She says she’s on the reservation list and is hopeful something will come through soon.

Sacramento Steps Forward is actively recruiting volunteers to help them take part in the upcoming count. Click here if you are interested in signing up to help.

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