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Latest count shows just 89 homeless people in Citrus Heights. Is it accurate?

Homeless Navigator
File photo, a Citrus Heights Homeless navigator speaks to a woman experiencing homelessness. // Image courtesy, HART

By Mike Hazlip—
Sacramento County’s 2022 Point-In-Time (PIT) count tallying the number of people living on the streets of Citrus Heights and across the county was released over the summer, but advocates say the numbers reported are far too low.

According to the report, there were 9,287 individuals in Sacramento County who were homeless on the night of the count in February. The survey further breaks down that figure by region, showing 89 homeless individuals in Citrus Heights.

Local homeless advocate Alfred Sanchez argues that number under-counts individuals and says he sees more than 40 people daily just in his area near Greenback Lane and Auburn Boulevard, with more new faces showing up each week.

Sanchez says the under-counts occur because he believes the county’s method of counting discourages people living in public areas from participating in the survey.

“They go around at night trying to find people that they can interview,” he said. “These guys out here at night aren’t going to be sitting there talking to nobody with no clipboard.”

Related: Living on the streets: Stories of Citrus Heights homeless

Citrus Heights Police Lt. Chad Morris says the city’s homeless navigator estimates about 250 homeless individuals currently living within city limits. That figure represents an increase over previous years where homelessness in the city was between 160 and 190 individuals, according to Morris.

Irene Hronicek, chairwoman of the board for the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART), is also skeptical of the county’s report.

“89 people is far fewer than the clients listed by the two Navigators who actually work in the City,” Hronicek said in an email to The Sentinel on Thursday. “The PIT has a history of under-reporting, and it appears this count is not an exception.”

Between local agencies like HART, the Sunrise Christian Food Ministry, Holy Family Food Closet, and the Underground Clothing store at Sunrise Mall, Hronicek says the true number of people in Citrus Heights experiencing homelessness is well-into the hundreds. She said homeless navigators are reporting case loads of about 130, a figure that is “less than half of the people who could be their clients.”

Related: ‘Just disgusting.’ Homeless camp, litter cleaned up along Citrus Heights on-ramp

Matt Hedges, chief of staff for County Supervisor Sue Frost, said that although the raw data from the PIT count under-reports the true number of homeless individuals, it serves as a gauge to track general trends over time.

“The biggest thing to take away from the PIT count (in my opinion) is the percentages, and how the numbers change report-by-report,” Hedges said.

The report shows a trend of increasing homelessness, with a 67 percent increase in people experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County since 2019, which was the last time the count was conducted. That trend is consistent with other counties throughout the state, with almost 80 percent of California jurisdictions reporting double-digit growth in the population of homeless individuals, the report says.

In 2019, the PIT count found just 45 homeless individuals in Citrus Heights, down from 188 reported during a 2017 count. That report led the city to claim at the time that a 76% reduction in homelessness had been seen, but that claim conflicted with a separate Citrus Heights Police Department count that found 163 homeless individuals in 2019.

From 2020: Citrus Heights claims it’s reduced homeless population by 76%. But has it?

The county’s 2022 PIT count report was completed by the Division of Social Work and the Center for Health Practice, Policy, and Research at the California State University, Sacramento. The methodology used in collecting the data follows HUD requirements, and represents a “sampling” of the total population. The authors describe the report as a “census” of all individuals experiencing homelessness during a single night.

The survey was conducted Feb. 23-24, 2022. Volunteers were instructed not to approach people living inside a tent, vehicle, or those in encampments of four or more tents, according to the survey methodology. Outreach teams were later sent to those areas during daylight hours to get a sampling of the population, the report says.

PIT counts are required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care Program, which provides funding for efforts to end homelessness. Counts are conducted every other year in Sacramento County, with the exception of years during the peak of the pandemic.

Read the full 2022 PIT count report: click here.

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