Nearly 250 volunteers spread out in 33 different locations throughout Alameda County for the county’s biennial homeless count Wednesday morning.
EveryOne Counts!, the biennial homeless count, seeks to interview more than 1,000 people in the county to identify homeless numbers as well as trends within the population. The count was formally announced at a press conference originally slated to be at People’s Park but moved due to disruptions.
Among others, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin took part in the press conference.
More than 3,000 cities and counties nationwide have been carrying out this biennial count during the last 10 days of January. Alameda County’s count is part of a larger national effort to meet three major goals set by the Obama administration, according to Ophelia Basgal, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Obama administration seeks to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015 as well as all homelessness by 2020 — an effort that Basgal described as “an audacious goal by anyone’s imagination.”
Despite bold targets for the coming decade, some of the speakers present expressed concerns about the availability of funding and the challenges that decreases in funding may pose.
Quan said she was worried about possible budget cuts in Oakland that may present a challenge to current efforts at curbing homelessness.
Arreguin, who volunteered at the count, also added that Berkeley will face difficulties with the effort going forward.
“It’s going to be a challenge because there have been cuts on a federal level to a number of programs that provide services to the homeless,” Arreguin said. “We’re going to have to make do with a lot less.”
The city is also currently facing large million-dollar deficits for the upcoming fiscal year 2014 and 2015. Current deficits are projected at $3 million for fiscal year 2014 and $2.1 million for 2015.
“Even when we’ve had multimillion deficits in the past, we’ve really prioritized homeless services, and we need to make sure that we prioritize it this year again,” Arreguin said.
Counts in previous years have provided a number of useful statistics and trends throughout the Bay Area, said Elaine de Coligny, the executive director of EveryOne Home, the organization that conducts the count.
Recent statistics show that there are nearly 130,000 homeless people in California, around 4,300 of whom are in Alameda County, Basgal added.
The 2011 homeless count showed declines in the overall homeless population by 13.6 percent since 2007 — with large declines in homelessness in families, veterans and individuals with serious mental illness, according to a press release from EveryOne Home.
Results are expected to be compiled and released late spring, according to de Coligny.