HANFORD — A recently published report from the Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance reveals homelessness in Kings and Tulare counties has risen 11% in the last year.
Annually, the Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance conducts a Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness within Kings and Tulare counties.
According to the alliance, the information gathered in these surveys is used to better understand the issues within homelessness, including causes, service needs, unmet housing needs and trends over time in the region.
The 2019 count was held Jan. 23 in conjunction with the Project Homeless Connect event in Hanford. Along with the event, street canvassing of hot spots where homeless are known to frequent is also used.
The alliance said the one-day survey provides only a snapshot of the adults, children and unaccompanied youth living in the two counties who meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of homeless.
HUD’s definition of homelessness includes only those who are sleeping in in emergency shelters, transitional housing, safe havens or unsheltered situations — which are places not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, like cars, parks, abandoned buildings, bus or train stations or camping grounds.
According to the report, homelessness spiked 11% from 2018 to 2019 in both Kings and Tulare counties.
The survey counted 1,069 total people experiencing homelessness, 250 (23%) of which were in Kings County.
Of the Kings County homeless population, 233 homeless people live in the city of Hanford, up from 168 in 2018 — that’s an increase of 39%. Alliance officials said this spike in numbers could be due to increased street outreach efforts that took place this year in Hanford.
The count is not an absolute measure of the homelessness in the region. Officials said some people refuse to participate and others are hiding or difficult to find.
In conclusion, officials said the number of people experiencing homelessness in Kings and Tulare counties is definitely on the rise.
“Without permanent housing solutions, homelessness will continue to increase,” the report stated.
The city of Hanford has been searching for ideas after plans to locate a homeless service center in the downtown area fell through in January.
Mayor Sue Sorensen said because the cause of homelessness does not come down to just one factor, it’s about managing the challenge and expanding the city’s tools while trying to comply with state mandates.
“This is not unique to Hanford,” Sorensen said of homelessness. “But we want to provide a safe, healthy environment.”
The Hanford City Council recently approved its fiscal year 2019-2020 budget, which included allocating funds to hire two more police officers who will be focused on handling homeless issues and hopefully gaining more insight, Sorensen said.
Sorensen also hopes the city can work more closely with the county, which is where most resources and services get funded.
In March, the Kings County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of a county-wide Homelessness Collaborative. The collaborative includes representative from various sectors and agencies, including the city of Hanford.
The purpose of the Homelessness Collaborative, which currently has around a dozen members, is to advise and assist in the county’s efforts to address homelessness and develop strategies to meet future needs.
Sorensen said she would like to see goals set and action come from the collaborative.
The collaborative’s first meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday, July 15, in room 505 of the Kings County Department of Public Health, 330 Campus Drive in Hanford. The meeting is open to the public.