The homeless population in Fresno and Madera has fallen by more than half over the last six years, outperforming the nation, which saw a 14 percent decrease between 2010 and 2016.
But the greater Fresno area is among a slew of West Coast cities and counties – including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle – experiencing an uptick in homelessness this year compared to 2015, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.
Why? There are a variety of factors that can affect the number of homeless, said Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Housing markets that have seen dramatic shifts are probably driving this.”
“The housing market is a huge impact on the ability of people to retain housing and avoid homelessness,” Doherty said during a Thursday morning announcement with HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “I think it’s also harder and harder for people to exit homelessness.”
The housing market is a huge impact on the ability of people to retain housing and avoid homelessness.
Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
In Fresno and Madera, the total number of homeless increased by 9 percent from last year, for a count of 1,883 people. Chronic homelessness, which refers to people who have been on the streets for a year or more and have behavioral, physical or mental health conditions, is up by 48 percent, to 546 people compared to 368 last year.
The total number of homeless in Fresno-Madera is down 56 percent compared to 2010 when the Obama administration launched Opening Doors, the country’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness.
The numbers come from a street count and survey conducted in late January of homeless individuals and families. Mayor Ashley Swearengin released local numbers in June and presented a three-year plan to address the homeless, which includes providing immediate housing for the chronically homeless, outreach and more funding.
“Homelessness is down significantly in our nation since 2010, but we also know there’s a lot left to do,” Castro said.
“I sure hope that the next administration will continue the very strong progress that we have made on reducing homelessness in the U.S.,” he said. “Local communities have taken the mayor’s challenge to end homelessness and they have executed it well, and because of that 31 cities in three states have effectively ended homelessness.”