Monday, March 5, 2007

The Results are Out

The Homeless Count Results are now public. They are found here.

My summary - very preliminary and rough is as follows:

Of the 580 Larimer County surveys turned in, 353 met the criteria for “homeless” designation. Including the household members of these 353 respondents, the total of homeless persons identified in Larimer County was 556.

As noted in the report, this is undoubtedly an undercount.

The one consistent finding in all the research on homelessness is that surveys
undercount the homeless. It is particularly difficult to count those homeless persons who are unsheltered.4 The total number of homeless individuals fluctuates over time. People who are homeless typically move in and out of homelessness as conditions in their life change. Data collected during one day of the year only represents a snapshot of homelessness on that day.
However, considering a couple of things - 1.) most surveys have a low response rate and yet are extrapolated such that they are considered to be representative of an entire target population, and 2.) in 2005 a Larimer County Point in Time survey estimated there were 700-1,300 homeless persons in the county - the numbers represented in the final results for Larimer, which correspond to 50-75% of the estimated actual number of homeless, are strong indicators of an accurate representation of the whole.

Findings of interest re: the 556 people counted as homeless in Larimer County:
- 134 households, or 322 (58.9%) persons, are households with children – this debunks the majority stereotype of a single “hobo” or “bag lady” and is consistent with the state total of 60%
- single parent households account for 45% of the homeless in Larimer County, whereas the state total is 39%
- the remaining 225 persons (41.1%) comprised 214 households without children – most of the people in this category were singles, though some couples are represented in this number.
- 11.6% of Larimer County homeless are veterans – this is slightly lower than the state total of 15%
- as with the state totals, minorities were overrepresented and whites were underrepresented in the homeless population compared to their make-up of the general population in Larimer County (compare Compass information with the information in the PDF)
- nearly 40% of those classified as homeless had never been homeless previously; this is a higher rate of first-time homelessness than the state total (32.4%)
- additionally, almost ¾ of the respondents had been homeless between a few weeks and less than one year, in other words, it is a small minority that is homeless long-term in Larimer County
- disabling conditions were more frequently cited in Larimer County than throughout the state. 55.2% had one or more disabling condition, whereas across the state, only 50.9% did. In particular, the number of persons responded they had one or more of the following are as listed: mental illness (28%), substance abuse (27%), or serious medical condition (24%) and are higher than state totals, (21.2%, 26%, and 19.5%, respectively). Interestingly enough, the mental illness and substance abuse incident rates are in keeping with the SAMHSA figures in the 2005 PIT.
- also, nearly 70% of the Larimer County homeless respondents were wage earners - that is to say, they are not the stereotypical ideal of someone who is "lazy" or a welfare recipient - no, these are hardworking folk like me and you

Another key thing to remember is that the domestic violence figures were reported as a separate aggregate to be paired with the State totals – it is not able to be broken down by county.

Implications abound. Both in the political arena and church arena for me, personally. More later

*****Edited to add:
Read what the Coloradoan and the Reporter-Herald had to say

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