The topic of homelessness in the state of California has been an ongoing discussion among many city leaders. The homelessness crisis in California is very real and that has politicians, city officials, law enforcement, and residents wanting a resolution.
The City of Riverbank partnered with Stanislaus County in the annual Point In Time Homeless Count at the end of January. The annual count is a requirement from the Housing and Urban Development Department that is planned and carried out locally with their guidelines and tools. According to city staff, the information collected will assist in creating future programs for the homeless in the city.
City staff and volunteers began the count in the morning as they visited several locations around town that homeless people are known to frequent. Several people that were encountered during the count were give care packages.
For over 10 years the City of Riverbank has participated in the homeless count and this year City Manager Sean Scully and Human Services Specialist Norma Torres-Manriquez along with seven community volunteers hit the streets to collect the data.
“This year myself along with Norma were personally involved in coordinating the effort here in Riverbank as our homeless population seems to have been steadily rising over the past 24 months and we wanted to be sure we were involved in getting an accurate count number,” stated Scully. “We split the City into four sections and each volunteer group checked multiple locations in each section. I believe every City in the County participated as well as the unincorporated County areas.”
Riverbank City Hall was the base for the operation and a few weeks before the count there was a training session for the volunteers.
“We also took out breakfast snacks to hand out when making contact with individuals,” said Scully. “We surveyed approximately 19 individuals but the official count may be different depending what happens when our paperwork is reviewed and finalized.”
The care packages that were given out had granola bars, water, socks, gloves, skull caps, and information about available services.
“We have a growing population year over year in Riverbank and that our numbers during the warmer months of the year are likely much higher,” added Scully. “If the count was required to be done in the spring or summer we would estimate a much higher population of homeless individuals (possibly more than double). It also highlighted that much like most communities in California we have a population in Riverbank who are truly struggling and the need for services to provide assistance is significant.”
Although this count is a requirement by HUD the data does assist the city in receiving grant funding and being able to provide programs for homeless individuals.
“It is important to get some data on our homeless population so that we can better understand how we can facilitate help for these individuals,” explained Scully. “The City of Riverbank has been committed to being a participant in finding solutions to homelessness along with the County and other cities in the county.”