Merced County Times Newspaper
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Latest numbers on homeless show decline in Merced area

Nearly 6 percent increase reported across the county, but it’s below state average


Leaders within the county’s Continuum of Care (CoC) governing board were set to adopt this week an official report from the 2024 Point-in-Time Count of this region’s sheltered and unsheltered individuals — and the data shows encouraging progress for the Merced area, where significant resources are concentrated.

According to the report, the City of Merced and surrounding county areas experienced a 13 percent decrease in the number of unsheltered people from 227 in 2023 to 197 in 2024.

The number of sheltered persons in Merced, 369, increased by 7 percent from last year. And the total number of persons counted in Merced — as unsheltered and sheltered — in 2024 was 1 percent lower when compared to 2023.

“Addressing homelessness remains an immense challenge, but it’s encouraging to see the 13 percent decline in unsheltered homelessness in the City of Merced and the immediately surrounding county areas from 2023 to 2024, and a 12 percent unsheltered decline from 2021 to 2024,” Mayor Matthew Serratto told the Times. “This is in contrast to an approximate 10 percent statewide increase from 2021-2023 alone, so we have gained ground against the backdrop of a rising tide in California.”

Mayor Serratto, who also serves as the CoC Chair, noted that the positive numbers arrive as many of the city’s projects to address homelessness have yet to come to fruition, while other existing ventures such as the Navigation Center and the Merced County Rescue Mission are making significant progress.

“Only half of the 1213 V St. project is currently online, plus our R & Childs Homekey Project is currently under construction, and several hundred units from a number of other affordable housing projects are a few years from completion,” he said. “We have a long road ahead and plenty of good work waiting for us. We must continue to strengthen our outreach, enforcement and treatment regimens. The goal is always to get people off of the street and into shelter, to provide some needed stability, then work towards the goals of permanent housing and ultimate self-sufficiency.”

Unsheltered numbers are up, however, in other cities when compared to last year’s data. Atwater was up by 26 individuals, doubling, from 27 to 53. Los Banos was up 43, from 78 to 121, Winton was up 8, from 15 to 23, and Santa Nella was up 3, from 13 to 16.

About a dozen other smaller communities in the county, such as Livingston, Delhi, Hilmar, Dos Palos, and Le Grand, had very low unsheltered populations — in the single digits. Not a single individual experiencing homelessness was reported in Cressey, El Nido, Gustine, Planada, and Snelling.

Countywide, the report noted an overall increase of sheltered and unsheltered individuals of 5.9 percent, from 784 in 2023 to 830 in 2024. The county’s overall unsheltered increased by 9.7 percent, from 390 to 428.

However, a look at the county’s overall numbers from 2021 to 2024 shows a slight decrease from 835 in 2021 to 830 in 2024, and a small unsheltered decrease from 455 in 2021 to 428 in 2024.

While the State of California’s 2024 numbers will be reported later this year, in 2023 there were a total of 181,399 individuals experiencing homelessness, with 123,423 of them listed as unsheltered. That’s compared to a total of 173,800 reported in 2022, of which 116,600 were unsheltered.

According to the local CoC report, most of the county’s sheltered people, 87, received motel vouchers. Another 75 were at the Navigation Center in Merced, and 44 were at the D Street Shelter in Merced. Some 15 shelters and transitional housing programs were listed in the report.

Other key findings in Merced County
  • The number of sheltered children experiencing homelessness decreased from 77 in 2023 to 56 in 2024 representing a decrease of 21 children or 27.3 percent.
  • 43 percent of sheltered persons and 26 percent of unsheltered persons were female.
  • 22 percent of sheltered adults and 24 percent of unsheltered adults were age 55+.
  • 36 percent of sheltered individuals and 3 percent of unsheltered individuals were chronically homeless.
  • 19 percent of sheltered individuals and 46 percent of unsheltered individuals identified as Hispanic/Latino/Latina. 31.8 percent of unsheltered individuals identified as White. 15.4 percent identified as Black.
  • More than two-thirds (68 percent) of individuals counted as sheltered and unheltered were in the City of Merced.
  • 51.7 percent of unsheltered individuals are aware of the housing and homeless services available in Merced County.
  • 19.7 percent of unsheltered individuals were told by a doctor or other medical professional that they had a chronic health condition that is life-threatening such as heart, lung, liver, kidney or cancerous disease.
  • 15.8 percent of unsheltered individuals became homeless for the first time during the past 12 months.
  • More than half (55.7 percent ) of unsheltered adults had no income.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires CoCs that receive funding to conduct an unsheltered “one night point-in-time” homeless count every other year during the last 10 days of January. HUD also requires CoCs to complete a sheltered count, annually, of people experiencing homelessness who reside in emergency shelter, transitional housing, and Safe Havens on a single night. Merced CoC has elected to conduct both a sheltered and unsheltered point-in-time on an annual basis.
The region’s unsheltered count was conducted on Jan. 25 by 91 volunteers. The sheltered count was conducted overnight on Jan. 24 in shelters and transitional housing programs.
Utilizing the HUD definition of literal homelessness, a person was counted if they were observed living in places not meant for human habitation, or in an emergency shelter, or in transitional housing for homeless persons who originally came from the streets or shelter.

At risk for homelessness

The Merced CoC geographical area, which includes the County of Merced, has a substantial number of households that are at-risk of homelessness. Approximately 18.8 percent of Merced County residents were living below the poverty level according to the July 1, 2023 U.S. Census Bureau. This means that of the 290,014 Merced County residents, approximately 54,523 individuals, representing 17,000 households, were at risk of becoming homeless.
Many households can become homeless because of challenges such as increases in rent, job loss, and rising healthcare costs. In addition, personal experiences such as domestic violence, physical disability, mental illness, and substance abuse are also contributing factors to homelessness. Often, one or more of these experiences play a role in a household’s experience of homelessness.

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