United Way Of San Joaquin County, in partnership with the City of Stockton, CA, St. Mary's Dining Room, Dignity Health, and University of the Pacific, unveiled the findings of both the Cost of Homelessness Report and the Unsheltered Encampment Survey Studies; a massive undertaking that spanned the course of two years.
We conducted the research, compiled the data, and presented our findings at an unveiling at St. Mary's Dining Room. Next is the critical question: how can this data be used? Our fervent hope is that this valuable information is utilized to its maximum potential in advancing efforts to reduce homelessness and contributes to the following outcomes:
#1. Bringing a General Understanding About the Unsheltered Community
The Unsheltered Encampment Survey Study provided our community with an intimate look into the lives of those experiencing homelessness without shelter, who live anywhere from the insides of their vehicles to underneath bridges. Learning about their lives and situations sheds light on the unique life experiences, dispels common myths and misconceptions about homelessness, helps us understand why/how homelessness occurs, and helps inform our community on what needs to be done.
#2. Understanding the Cost of Homelessness
As of January of 2022, approximately 2,319 people were experiencing homelessness In San Joaquin County. The County was estimated to have spent between $131.8 million and $160.2 million addressing homelessness in 2021, making the total cost per person somewhere between $56,800 and $69,100. Understanding the costs of homelessness in San Joaquin County allows us to assess the current situation, determine need, track trends, compare changes over time, evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches, and compare costs. Ultimately, this information can be used to help ensure that public and private dollars are making the greatest impact in ameliorating homelessness.
#3. Advancing the Work of Nonprofits Looking to Make A Difference In the Lives of the Unsheltered
Data from these studies can assist in constructing frameworks for nonprofit organizations looking to make a difference in the lives of the unsheltered. This wealth of information yields numerous possibilities: it could show a clear need and urgency in the acquiring of resources, inform the development of grants and strategies, contribute to policy changes, support advocacy efforts, allow for collaboration with other existing city plans, and much more.
Kristen Birtwhistle, CEO/President of United Way of San Joaquin states, “These reports are simply a beginning. A starting point of collecting data, demographic, and recommendations which represents the voices of those living in unsheltered conditions.”
It is now up to our community to take the next steps in continuing the critical work of addressing homelessness and ultimately alleviating the suffering of some of our county’s most vulnerable.”