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homeless.jpgEnsuring that all homeless are counted can bring much

needed federal dollars to Vallejo


by Gregg L. DesElms
3/22/10

 

 

I need the help of all VIB readers (and pretty much everyone else in Vallejo) to tell me every single place where they've been seeing homeless people living and/or congregating in Vallejo. And I need it pretty much right now... today. The reason is because I've partnered with the US Census Bureau this year to help ensure that all the homeless are counted when the census workers fan out across the city during the last three days of March to do their every-ten-year homeless count. And the reason that's important is because the Census Bureau estimates that for every person in Vallejo who's counted this year -- even the homeless, and, yes, even you -- roughly $1,200 per person per year will be allocated to Vallejo in one form or another of federal funds during the coming decade. And since I estimate that Vallejo's homeless have been grossly undercounted in the past; and that there may even be as many as 1,500 of them out there, then at $1,200 per person per year, that's some roughly $18 million that could be heading Vallejo's way in the next ten years if we can just get all those homeless folks counted!

So we've got to scramble... and fast.  I've made it super-easy for everyone to communicate with me.

I've created a web page at  www.homelessvallejo.org   where you can fill-in a form. 

Or my toll-free telephone number is 1-877-383-5148. 

My email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Please understand that nothing bad will happen to the homeless whose whereabouts you report to me.  They won't end-up being rousted from their encampments or anything like that.  Law enforcement is simply not involved in any of this.  In fact, the census workers are prohibited by law from disclosing to anyone anything collected in surveys, or anything they might happen to see in people homes or living environments... even illegal things.  In fact, census workers aren't even allowed to take law enfocement with them for their own safety.  So no homeless person has anything to fear from allowing himself or herself to be counted; and allowing themselves to be counted could result in more money for Vallejo which could ultimately help the homeless!  If you happen to talk to any homeless persons in the next few days, please explain that to them.

In addition to giving these locations to the Census Bureau, however, I will be using them myself in the near future.  Once the census count is taken, I will be teaming-up with CAP SOLANO and other non-profit organizations dedicated to helping the homeless, and we will be going back out and conducting our own re-count of the homeless, as well as conducting two surveys which will both better help us to understand them and their needs, and will also help us to identify which of the chronically homeless are most statistically likely to die prematurely on account of their homelessness.  Knowing these things can help agencies better target those most in need, better provide services in the most cost-effective ways, and better get housed those who are statistically most vulnerable.

Homelessness in Vallejo is a far bigger problem than anyone realizes.  Previous counts by CAP SOLANO pursuant to its HUD obligations have revealed what I believe (and what even CAP SOLANO agrees) is only a fraction of the true number of homeless who are out there in Vallejo.

And national statistics would seem to bear that out.  Nationally, the number of homeless in any given community tends to be around 10% of the number of people in said community who are living below the poverty line.  If those numbers are applicable to Vallejo (and I have every reason to believe they are), then that means that there are some at least 1,200 homeless people out there in this city.  Personally, I think there are even more... perhaps as many as 1,500... maybe even more than that. 

And here's the crying shame of it:  If those national statistics hold-up for Vallejo, then nearly half of those 1,200 to 1,500 homeless persons in it are children... that's some 600 to 750 CHILDREN in Vallejo who are homeless!

Also -- again, the statistics -- around 10% of any community's total homeless (in Vallejo's case, that would be around 120 to 150 people) are the chronically homeless... those who, for a variety of reasons (but usually because of substance abuse or mental illness) simply can't or won't stop living on the streets or in encampments.  According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington, DC, some nearly 180,000 homeless persons nationwide fit into that category.  And around 65% of those folks tend to live in just 50 US cities... one of which just happens to be Vallejo.

And according to a study called the "Vulnerability Index," which is being rolled-out across the country by a homeless helping agency in New York called "Common Ground," some roughly 40% of any community's chronically homeless (so, in Vallejo's case, that would be, statistically, around 50 people) exhibit one or more of eight health-related "markers" which make them statistically more likely to die prematurely on account of their homelessness.  In some cities, they've died right on the streets.

As it happens, I am the local Vallejo contact and coordinator both for Common Ground's "Vulnerability Index" campaign, and also for its "100,000 Homes Campaign."  The 100,000 Hoomes Campaign has targeted 50 "tipping point" cities across America -- one of which, again, is Vallejo -- where the aforementioned 65% of America's chronically homeless tend to be.  The campain's goal is to by-golly get those folks housed within the next five years.  And so far the results in the pilot cities, where some nearly 1,400 chronically-homeless persons have already been housed, are both impressive and encouraging!  So we know that the methods used in the "100,000 Homes Campaign" work.  We just need to start using them here!

So, this is the beginning of something new... something not tried before in Vallejo.  It's the dawning of a new day for finally doing something to put an absolute and incontrovertible end to homelessness in this city. 

Your help to locate all the places where the homeless live and/or congregate so the US Census Bureau can count them; and so that we can later go out and meet and re-count them, and conduct our two brief surveys so that we can better help them, is the first step.  But it won't happen without your help.

Please contact me at 1-877-383-5148, or at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , or by going to the  www.homelessvallejo.org  web site and filling-in the form. 

Please.

And if you'd like to volunteer to go out with us when we conduct these surveys, or perhaps even to help be "guides" to some of the homless locations on the night that the Census Workers are out, please let me know that, too... soon.

Marc Garman (VIB's editor and head-honcho) has invited me to start writing a column here, so I hope to be giving you more to read on this subject in the future. 

Thanks, though, right now, for your kind and IMMEDIATE attention to the matter of telling me every single place you know of where the homeless live or congregate.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Gregg DesElms performs agency and advocacy to the homeless, disabled vets, the elderly, recent parolees, and others similarly in need.  Though he's been doing it as needed for thirty years, it has become a nearly full-time ministry for him during the past five or so years.  You may view a copy of his business card as a PDF file at www.tinyurl.com/deselms-card

 

Photo of homeless man (top) in Vallejo's White Slough--Marc Garman