Sacramento County Homeless Population Increased 19% in Two Years

SACRAMENTO — The homeless population in Sacramento County grew by 19% over the last two years, according to data released Wednesday.

According to Sacramento Steps Forward, there are 5,570 people experiencing homelessness on a given night in the county.

The group says the increase is in line with many other California communities, as the state grapples with a housing crisis.

On a quiet, quaint street in Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood, something happened last week that neighbors who have been in the area for decades have never seen before. A homeless camp with tents and sleeping bags was set up right on the sidewalk.

“Well, there's safety issues. There's security issues. There’s services issues and the possibility of injury and damage to property and people,” said neighbor Phil Koreis.

While none of those things happened, it was unsettling for Koreis. Yet, he said it was not surprising.

“So, there's a significant population that is planting, if you will, in open spaces," he told FOX40.

New data released Wednesday shows Koreis’ neighborhood will not be the only one affected by homelessness.

Back in January, some 900 volunteers ventured out into 161 different locations over two nights to count how many people were living and sleeping outside.

The Point-in-Time Count in Sacramento County occurs every two years and is in partnership with the federal government.

“The news today is both sobering and it’s also very helpful,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Wednesday. “It’s obviously a recognition that we have a lot more work to do.”

The new data is alarming, and not so much for how many people are outdoors but who is outdoors.

“People who are older who are experiencing homelessness," said Sacramento Steps Forward CEO Lisa Bates. "We're seeing that families, particularly a larger percentage of unsheltered families."

Bates said around a third of people outside are older than 50.

They also counted almost 200 families with children sleeping outdoors or in cars.

She added there are now homeless populations in certain areas of the county that officials were not aware of before.

“It’s definitely true that homeless people are everywhere,” Bates told FOX40.

Purely by numbers, the Sacramento County PIT Count showed an increase in the homeless population from 3,665 people in 2017 to 5,570 in 2019. That would be an increase of 52%.

However, the researchers involved in the 2019 count surveyed 161 different locations this year, compared to just 70 specific locations in 2017. They surveyed a much broader area and this year made an attempt to count those living and sleeping out of cars.

As a result, researchers say comparing numbers from 2017 with those from the 2019 count would not paint an accurate picture of the change in the homeless population.

Instead, researchers took an estimate weighing the differences in their methods between 2017 and 2019. Their best estimate for the change in the overall homeless population is the 19% increase over two years.

In addition, the study found about 70% of those who are homeless are unsheltered, meaning they are not staying in homeless shelters, cars or motels.

Researchers found that, despite common misconceptions, Sacramento County does not draw large numbers of homeless people from other places. The vast majority, 93% of the homeless population in Sacramento County, are from the area.

Researchers also found that while the population of the county is about 36% non-white, the homeless population is about 50% non-white. Specifically, black, Native American and Alaskan Native people are largely overrepresented among the homeless population.

State lawmakers approved a half-billion dollars in emergency funding for homelessness services last year. Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed to increase that spending to $650 million. He has also tapped Mayor Steinberg to head a statewide task force on homelessness.

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