Homelessness in Our Community Affects Us All

According to the recently released Homeless Census, the number of individuals counted in Monterey County is 2,308.  For the purposes of the census, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines homelessness as “persons living in shelters and places not meant for human habitation,” but excludes multiple families housed together due to economic hardship -- an all-to-common circumstance in Monterey County.

The Homeless Census provides us with numbers, statistics and demographics. But the people behind the
numbers are often our neighbors, loved ones, friends and coworkers.

  • He served his country and did three tours in Iraq. He experienced death, war and battle. He came home with an honorable discharge, post-traumatic stress disorder and few employment opportunities. One piece of bad luck followed another until he found himself sleeping in the alley way of a shopping center. He just wants a job and the chance to get his life together again.
  • She is a woman of a certain age, a homemaker married for 30 years before her partner left her. The last thing she would ever do is to become a burden to her grown children who live in different states. They think Mom is doing OK, but Mom is not OK. You see, she lost the house eight months ago and has been sleeping in the car every night since and visiting libraries in the daytime hours trying her best to blend in.

Homelessness comes at a very high cost — to individuals, communities and systems of care. Numerous studies demonstrate that communities save money by providing permanent supportive housing to people experiencing homelessness. Homeless persons are more likely to suffer from chronic medical conditions and complications due to housing instability. Emergency rooms, crisis response and public safety systems are utilized at a much higher rate by homeless individuals.

In short, it is proven to be more cost-effective toprovide permanent supportive housing than to leave someone on the streets or in shelters. Local governments should make concerted efforts to increase the stock of safe and affordable housing for extremely low-income individuals and families. It is essential that all of us — faith communities, local residents, nonprofits, government, housing developers, business, education and funding entities — work together to do the heavy lifting needed to end homelessness in our community. To help, sign the online petition supportive affordable housing or learn more about programs for landlords that provide rental subsidies at www.chspmontereycounty.org.

Written by Katherine Thoeni, Executive Officer of the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers.