SPARE CHANGE NEWS
The last week in January 2012 hundreds of communities nationwide conducted their annual homeless census, required by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This national census includes two separate counts involving a tally of unsheltered individuals and a tally of families and individuals staying in shelters or transitional housing.
On the night of Wednesday, January 25, and through the next morning, Cambridge and Somerville conducted their 13th joint homeless census. Six volunteer teams traveled through the two cities taking a prescribed route, led by a street outreach volunteer professional from the CASPAR (Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Rehabilitation) First Step Street Outreach program.
Three months later, in mid-April, the city of Cambridge released its 2012 Homeless Census Report. According to Liz Mengers, the Homeless Services Continuum care planner, the 2012 homeless census counted 357 individual homeless people and 46 homeless families (128 people), for a total population of 485 homeless. Of the 357 individuals, 192 were in emergency shelters, 93 were living in transitional housing, and 66 were living on the street. The 46 homeless families included 46 women, 7 men, and 75 children. Twenty-five families were in emergency shelters and 21 were staying in transitional housing programs.
The 2012 homeless census of 485 homeless shows a slight increase, about 3 percent, over the 2011 total of 471 homeless people. The street count jumped from 44 people counted in 2011 to 66 people in 2012, an increase of 50 percent, closer to the 2010 count of 61 people. The shelter population was down by 9 percent.
However, according to Mengers, many of the people counted in the Cambridge Homeless Census may also wind up being counted in Boston. “People travel across the Charles River every day,” Mangers said. “The census is just a total count and is not a true census because Cambridge and Boston do their counts on different days, and people may be counted twice.”
Assistant City Manager for Human Services Ellen Semonoff pointed out that part of the positive impact of Cambridge‘s homeless services is missing from the census data, On the night of the homeless census, 411 formerly homeless persons (families and individuals) were living in HUD-funded Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). “Some significant factors about the city’s services to prevent homelessness are not represented in the census,” Semonoff said, “Cambridge maintains and continues to develop funding for Permanent Supportive Housing, housing with services for formerly homeless persons.”
ROBERT SONDAK is a Spare Change News writer and vendor. Sondak earned a B.A. from U Mass Boston’s College of Public and Community Service; he minored in Urban Planning and Advocacy. Currently Sondak is the Executive Director of the Nutrition Education Outreach Project: heep://neopneopt.blogspot.com.