COTTONWOOD-People who assist in the world of the homeless got a picture of the issue from a state housing official this past week.
Maureen Rooney is a specialist with the Special Needs program of the Arizona Department of Housing. Wednesday, she reported to the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition on the numbers from a regular survey of the homeless for Yavapai County as part of the annual January count of "sheltered and unsheltered homeless."
The report taken by volunteers in each of Arizona's 13 non-metro counties takes a head count, as best they can. The count samples the number of people in transitional housing, in emergency housing and in permanent supported housing.
Yavapai has a "very active program, with a high average count," according to Rooney, referring to the number of facilities. There are 340 beds in Yavapai County, the second highest number in the state after Yuma County. In the Verde Valley, there are no shelters for emergency housing.
The number for Yavapai winter count did not change that much from the summer count, she noted. Rooney tends to believe that means that the homeless tabulated locally are of a more "local people." People in the coalition suspect that that number is typical because of the temperate climate and the lack of a major highway.
Rooney says that is a good thing, because it means that the problem "is more easily solved."
Eliza Louden, PATH Outreach coordinator for Catholic Charities, says about half the numbers are from the Verde Valley.
Rooney says she is sure that not every person is counted. The state is very strict in its definition. If someone is sleeping on somebody else's couch, they are not counted, for example.
The Doce fire "is very scary" because most of the homeless in the county are "camping" in the woods, 32.03 percent of those in the tally. Others are sleeping in a vehicle (22.22 percent), on the street (20.9 percent), move from place to place (17.65 percent), in an abandoned building (3.9 percent) or in a park (3.27 percent).
Most of those surveyed are alone and single (77.12 percent). The majority are men.
About 17.65 percent have been homeless for two to six months, 20.26 percent for more than 24 months. The longer a person is homeless, the more difficult it becomes to be successful. It is easier to help the homeless if we respond rapidly, she said.