The results of Sonoma County's point-in-time homeless count from January have just been released, and the county says it has 22 percent fewer people experiencing homelessness compared to the previous year.
Sonoma County announced the new data in a release this week, saying that 2,266 individuals were counted in this year's census, which was conducted on January 27. And that's a 22 percent from from 2022's count, which was 2,893. That marks the largest year-over-year decrease the county has seen since 2015.
It should be noted that Sonoma County officials conducted a major encampment sweep along the public Joe Rodota Trail on January 24, just three days before this point-in-time count was taken. And it's not clear if those individuals ended up being part of the count — for instance, if they temporarily found shelter elsewhere.
The county also found a 24 percent decrease in the number of individuals classified as "chronically homeless." And youth homelessness was also down significantly — 294 homeless youths were counted this year, down from 530 last year.
It appears Sonoma opted to do two consecutive point-in-time counts, while most other municipalities and counties are now on an even-year, biennial schedule, following the pandemic.
"Unlike the 2022 count, the 2023 census was conducted in a manner similar to pre-COVID counts," the county says. "All deployments were in person, and maps were chosen ahead of time by city and nonprofit partners in all areas of the county where individuals experiencing homelessness were known to be."
San Francisco, which conducted its pandemic-delayed point-in-time homeless count in early 2022, found a 3.5% decrease in the overall number since three years earlier, when the 2019 count took place.
Other parts of the Bay Area, in particular Santa Clara County, saw increases in homelessness over the same period. And a report last year from McKinsey suggested that overall homelessness in the Bay Area was up 35% from 2019, but that estimate may not be born out in all the city and county counts.
"These numbers are incredibly encouraging and are a reflection of the hard work of many across Sonoma County who, through innovative programs and partnerships, are helping homeless residents get off the streets," said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, in a statement. "These efforts, including the passage of Measure O by county voters, are truly making a difference and changing lives. As the report notes we have more work to do but we are moving in the right direction."
"This progress comes from focus and coordination," said Tina Rivera, Director of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services. "The county team and our partner cities have pushed hard to place more housing units in operation and to provide strong supportive services to help keep people housed. While we’re thankful for these numbers, we still have 2,266 people to move into housing."
Previously: SF's Homeless Population Actually Declined During the Pandemic, and Nearly 20% More Are Sheltered