Local homeless live without shelter the longest

Tulare-Kings leads the nation in homeless people who have lived on the streets for several years

By Reggie Ellis

TULARE COUNTY – Tulare and Kings counties are home to the most dire circumstances of homelessness in the entire nation. 

The two-county area, where most of the homeless population lives in Visalia, had the highest percentage of homeless people who have lived on the streets without shelter for several years, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. 

Known as chronically homeless, 286 people in the Tulare-Kings Continuum of Care (CoC), statistical areas where homeless people are served, have been without shelter for a year or at least four separate times in the past three years. To make matters worse, 95.8% of those who are chronically homeless in the area have no place to go for shelter. That’s the highest percentage in the nation, more than Los Angeles, Fresno, Oakland and Long Beach and 10% higher than similarly sized areas, urban areas not among the nation’s 50 largest cities, in Eugene, Ore., Vallejo, Calif., Oxnard, Calif. and Savannah, Ga.

According to the report presented to Congress last month, Tulare and Kings Counties ranked fourth on the list of CoCs with the highest percentage of homeless people who are unsheltered. More than three-quarters of the homeless here (823 people) live on the streets without shelter from weather. That only trails the Vallejo and Pasadena areas in California and the Eugene area in Oregon for urban areas not among the 50 largest cities in the nation. 

Nearly half (47%) of all unsheltered people in the country, about 89,000, live in California. California also had the highest rate of homeless veterans who were unsheltered with two-thirds of homeless veterans living without a roof over their head. The problem is centered in major cities as LA, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and Fresno had the highest percentage of unsheltered homeless veterans in the nation and four of five suburban areas with the highest percentage in Imperial County, Watsonville/Santa Cruz, Santa Ana/Anaheim and San Bernardino. 

California has also done the best job at changing the trend. Since 2009, the state has taken more than 7,000 veterans off the streets, including 600 in the last year. 

Tulare and Kings counties also ranked third among urban areas outside the 50 largest cities with the highest number of chronically homeless per person. Locally, 286 people were identified as chronically homeless, trailing only Eugene, Ore. And Vallejo, Calif. in the largely urban category. California is home to about 85% of the country’s chronically homeless. 

Nearly a quarter (24%) of all people experiencing homelessness, an estimated 130,000 people, call California home, followed by New York (17% or 91,897 people); Florida (6% or 31,030 people); Texas (5% or 25,310 people); and Washington (4% or 22,304 people). California and New York had the largest numbers of people experiencing homelessness and high rates of homelessness, at 33 and 46 people per 10,000. However, California has also seen the largest decreases in homelessness in the last year (-1.2% about 1,560 people) and the fourth most in the last decade (-6.5%). 

A more in-depth analysis of this report and the causes for the homeless crisis at the local level in Kings and Tulare counties will be provided in next week’s issue of The Sun-Gazette.

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