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Here’s what the 2019 homeless count in Citrus Heights found

homeless man
File photo, a homeless man pushes a shopping cart along Greenback Lane. // CH Sentinel

Results of a month-long survey of homeless in Citrus Heights have been released, with findings showing less homeless in the city than last year.

The annual count is undertaken each year over a 30-day period in April by the Citrus Heights Police Department, with the data generally considered more accurate than the “Point in Time” (PIT) count that occurs over a 24-hour period every two years.

The latest PIT count found a 19 percent increase in homelessness countywide, while the Citrus Heights count showed a drop from 186 homeless individuals in 2018 down to 163 this year. The countywide count found only 45 unsheltered individuals in Citrus Heights, which local police say is due to the count only taking place over a one-day period while the city’s count is more extensive and takes a full month.

Data collected from the police survey found the majority of homeless in Citrus Heights identify themselves as “chronically homeless” and say they are unemployed and want help. About two-thirds said they are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, and 1-out-of-5 said they had a mental illness.

Below are the findings from the 2019 survey, provided to The Sentinel by the Citrus Heights Police Department:

  • 163 unique homeless surveys completed
  • 129 know there are services available (79%)
  • 102 want services (62%)
  • 48 have used a homeless service in the past (29%)
  • 110 consider themselves chronically homeless (67%)
  • 2 are veterans (1%)
  • 110 are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs (67%)
  • 62 claim their probation/parole status prevents them from getting housing (38%)
  • 15 have a history of domestic violence (9%)
  • 51 claim the lack of affordable housing keeps them homeless (31%)
  • 2 with traumatic brain injuries (1%)
  • 8 have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (5%)
  • 34 claim mental illness, some are self-diagnosed (21%)
  • 120 are unemployed (73%)

The city’s mayor and police chief have credited the overall drop in homeless individuals to the work of the city’s homeless navigator, Toni Morgan, who works proactively to connect area homeless with housing and services.

However, residents often express concern about homelessness being perceived to be on the rise, including more than a dozen residents who showed up and spoke at a recent City Council meeting and said “enough is enough.”

In public comments made during the June 27 council meeting, residents said homeless camps behind Costco and Walmart have made the Stock Ranch Nature Preserve unsafe for families and threaten quality of life and property values.

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Responding to the concerns, Councilman Bret Daniels said despite the efforts of the city’s navigator and police department, the city is “failing” to adequately address homelessness. He called for establishing a dedicated homeless unit in the police department, along with regular “sweeps” of problem areas.

“We’re going to continue to have what we tolerate, and we’ve got to stop tolerating these idiots that are crapping on us and get rid of them,” said Daniels, to an applause from the audience. He also proposed setting up portable toilets to address concerns raised about human feces and waste being found at homeless camp sites in the city.

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Ron Lawrence, the city’s police chief, also replied to resident concerns during the meeting and said the city takes a two-prong approach to homelessness, helping connect those who want help to services while taking an enforcement approach with those who don’t want assistance and are committing crimes.

According to Sgt. James Evans, the police department is also looking at setting up a community cleanup day, where the city and neighborhoods can partner together to help clean up camp sites. He said the Sunrise Recreation and Parks District held a cleanup following the last council meeting to trim up trees and clean out areas where residents had complained.

Evans also said the city has ordered extra sharps containers to help with cleanup of needles, and said port-o-potties haven’t been discussed yet “but it will be.”

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Asked about sweeps of camp sites, Evans said court decisions require “reasonable” notice before camps can be cleared of personal belongings, which Citrus Heights has set at a 72-hour time period.

“There are legal boundaries and rules and laws that we have to obey,” said Evans. “We can’t just go in there and sweep.”

Daniels later told The Sentinel he was aware of legal limitations involving sweeps, but said “that doesn’t mean we can’t create a physical presence in those areas and hopefully reduce negative behavior.”

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