Lake County survey finds homelessness persists| Trending Viral hub

Lake County’s annual homeless survey found 82 people living outdoors. That number was less than the 90 volunteers who scoured the county from one end to the other looking for people spending winter nights outdoors.

The count at the end of January was nearly triple last year’s number of homeless people (30), volunteer counters determined. In 2022, there were 15 unsheltered people living outdoors.

Consider this a glass-half-full scenario: Lake County has an estimated total 2023 population of 714,351, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means those 82 homeless people are the smallest minority of residents in the county. county. We are not struggling with a large homeless population.

As part of the count, volunteers hand out bags with toothbrushes, toothpaste, Mylar blankets, gloves and socks to those outdoors. Some accept the gifts; others are too proud to do so.

A mild night during the annual count may have affected the number (mainly men) spending evenings outdoors. The number may increase after county community development officials complete the annual task.

Federal definitions of homeless include sheltered people, including those residing in abandoned buildings, and unsheltered people when a total count is taken. Before the county’s homeless numbers are counted, domestic violence victims housed in shelters and those spending nights in cars and Lake County PADS-funded shelters will be included.

Public Action to Deliver Shelter, the Waukegan-based community-focused group, was founded in 1972 to help the county’s homeless population. It relies on volunteers and federal and state funds to help those without shelter.

The final count in 2023 was 467 homeless people, including those who were temporarily housed, according to county officials. That number also remains a considerable minority.

While the fact that a homeless person is in such an affluent county is certainly concerning, it could be worse. Much worse.

Lake County’s homeless population is dwarfed by the numbers in Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, where homeless people have taken over entire city blocks. Or Chicago, for that matter.

At the state level, a snapshot of data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allocates funds to communities to combat homelessness, suggests that 11,950 Illinois residents became homeless in a single night in 2023. That averages a homeless rate of 9.5 people per 10,000, up from 8 in 2019.

Nationally, HUD estimates that more than 653,104 Americans were unsheltered in 2023. That’s about 20 per 10,000 people in the U.S., according to HUD data, the most since the 2007 spot survey.

One demographic that has seen its homelessness rate drop dramatically across the country is military veterans, according to HUD. Veteran homelessness is 52% lower than in 2009, the baseline year for veteran homelessness.

Despite that, the number of homeless American veterans increased 7% between 2022 and 2023. Last year, 35,574 veterans, 22 out of every 10,000, were homeless. There are an estimated 16.5 million American veterans.

While no one should have a reason to be homeless in our wealthy county, there are those who have few options. Poverty, rising rents and lack of affordable housing are some of the reasons.

Affordable housing is an issue across the country, especially on the West Coast, where low- and middle-income households struggle to maintain family residences. Others include job loss, mental health issues, disabilities and domestic violence.

Then there are the deeper reasons. They include the opioid epidemic, drug use and alcoholism, according to experts who track homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic has also taken its toll.

Many communities supported freezing evictions, protecting incomes and expanding the number of shelters during the coronavirus outbreak. With the pandemic seemingly behind us, those stocks have expired, putting individuals and families at risk.

Most of us will never experience homelessness, but there are those who, through no fault of their own, do and will suffer in the future. In this county full of luxurious communities, there are programs and funds available for them.

Those who find themselves on the streets must take the first steps to end their homeless journeys, seek help and obtain housing. Before the next winter, the headcount begins to turn.

Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and publisher.

X @sellenews

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