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Data shows fewer vets experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz County

Housing Matters today announced that the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz County may be lower than the latest Point-in-Time (PIT) count suggests. Currently, just 52 unhoused veterans remain on the “By-Name List,” a comprehensive, dynamic list of verified veterans experiencing homelessness in the County.

Data for the By-Name List, managed by a coalition of organizations, is collected through outreach and other points of contact and shared with veterans’ consent. The list is updated biweekly, and tracks each veteran’s history with homelessness; whether or not they are currently housed; and the support programs with which they are engaged. The veterans on the list are verified through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or military discharge records. Organizations that help maintain the By-Name List are part of a countywide coalition that includes Housing Matters, Nation’s Finest, HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Coordinated Entry.

“The PIT count is one tool that contributes to our knowledge of the overall homeless situation in our County,” said Tom Stagg, Chief Initiatives Officer at Housing Matters. “But the By-Name List is a much more accurate representation of this particular group. What the By-Name List shows is that the systems we have in place are working.”

The methodology behind the biannual PIT count, and how that data is collected led to the discrepancy. A federally mandated survey, the PIT count aims to count everyone experiencing homelessness (sheltered and unsheltered) on a given night. The 2022 PIT count, conducted on the night of February 28, 2022, with the help of research workers and volunteers, used a combination of follow-up small-sample survey responses and statistical projections to arrive at the number released in the final report.

“This year’s PIT count doesn’t align with what we’re seeing in our Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, or the data compiled through our campus services including the mailroom, bathrooms, and showers,” said Stagg. “In fact, it appears that numbers of veterans experiencing homelessness in the County may actually be declining.”

“The By-Name List is a living document, so it changes frequently. But this is the first time that the number of veterans on the list has dipped below 60,” said Liana Felde, program manager for Housing Matters’ SSVF program. Currently, the number of unhoused veterans on the By-Name List is 52.

Felde attributes the steady decline in veteran homelessness to collaboration among multiple organizations working to end homelessness among veterans, as well as targeted outreach. In addition to one full-time staff member dedicated specifically to veterans outreach, Housing Matters employs four outreach specialists who regularly visit local encampments, shelters, and other organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness. Once a veteran is identified and their veteran status is verified, that person is immediately enrolled in the SSVF program.

“If there are more unhoused veterans out there, we want to reach them,” Stagg said. “We have the potential to house all those vets.”

The first point of contact for veterans experiencing homelessness is by calling Housing Matters’ intake and assessment specialist at 831-222-0127.