Bakersfield · Fresno

Calif. spent millions on new housing. Is Valley homelessness down? We’re about to find out.

California has spent millions of dollars to combat homelessness over the past few years. Soon, the Central Valley will find out if that money was productive.

The Fresno Madera Continuum of Care and the Bakersfield-Kern Homeless Collaborative started their point-in-time counts this week, giving the communities an opportunity to see how many people are experiencing homelessness.

This year’s count will be especially telling as the COVID-19 pandemic moves into the rear-view mirror, which caused last year’s count to be canceled, meaning the latest data from 2020 – pre-pandemic – is outdated.

Having an in-person count, once again, is crucial for identifying any new people experiencing homelessness, Bakersfield-Kern Homeless Collaborative Executive Director Anna Laven told the Bakersfield Californian. 

“It allows us to get a little bit more of a broad spectrum view of who really is out sleeping every night in a place that is not meant for human habitation,” Laven said. “That is very much valuable to our community. It is valuable to our leadership, to the collaborative and the homeless service providers who are trying to support and address those needs.” 

The count in Kern County started early Thursday morning with volunteers from the community. 

The Fresno Madera Continuum of Care started its point-in-time count Wednesday. 

Because of the pandemic, the continuum noted that only agency staff will be participating in the count without any volunteers. 

“This week aims to gather critical data that will assist in understanding the extent of homelessness and changes in trends among this population, measuring local performance and progress toward ending chronic and Veteran homelessness, planning future services and resources, complying with reporting requirements from funders, and generating public awareness and education,” the agency said in a statement. 

The agency noted that the point-in-time count is used as the primary data source for federal agencies to track progress with the goals to curb homelessness. 

The count in Fresno and Madera Counties will run through Friday, and the results typically take months to be recorded and revealed.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.