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Citrus Heights didn’t do a homeless count this year. Here’s why

homeless camp
File photo, a 72-hour notice posted next to a homeless camp off Mariposa Avenue in Citrus Heights. // CH Sentinel

Sentinel staff report–
Economic hardships surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have left questions regarding what the impact will be on homelessness. But, in Citrus Heights, those figures likely won’t be known until next year.

Each April, the Citrus Heights Police Department has conducted a month-long survey of the homeless population in Citrus Heights, gathering data on the number of homeless, as well as the prevalence of substance abuse and other data.

But that survey didn’t happen this year, due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Throughout this pandemic we have tried to minimize the potential unnecessary exposure and risk to our officers by limiting these types of pro-active activities,” said Lt. Michael Wells in an email to The Sentinel. “We have focused our resources on essential police responsibilities such as responding to in-progress calls for service and being highly visible in our business areas.”

Wells said there’s still a chance there may be an interim count, if health orders are fully lifted. But he said such a count would likely result in “an asterisk next to the number based on it being outside of our normal April count.”

In an update on Friday, he said it looks like the department will put the count on hold until next April.

The accuracy of homeless counts in Citrus Heights has been questioned by some in recent years. Citing data from 2017 and 2019 counts conducted by the county, rather than local police figures, the city last year claimed a 76% drop in homelessness. The city has since advertised a more conservative reduction of “about 15%” between 2018 and 2019, crediting its homeless navigator program.

Wells said the city-funded navigator is continuing to connect homeless individuals to services during the coronavirus crisis.

From January: Citrus Heights claims it’s reduced homeless population by 76%. But has it?

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