File Photo – PADS Lake County | Photo: Google Street View

Lake County officials say they are “very concerned” after newly released data shows a 50% increase in homelessness in the county, which is the highest on record.

Lake County recently released its annual assessment of unhoused individuals in the county, called the point in time (P.I.T.) count.

The assessment is based on a count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night every January.

“The volunteers who participate in the overnight count utilize a specific list of questions to help create an accurate snapshot of the unhoused,” county officials said late last month.

“The annual count occurs not just in Lake County, but in counties across the U.S. and is reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).”

2024’s P.I.T. count showed 701 people experiencing homelessness, the highest number on record for Lake County.

That’s a 50% increase in the county’s homeless population — unsheltered and currently in shelters — compared to 467 in 2023.

75 of the 701 people were unsheltered, which is more than double what was reported last year.

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“Homelessness is a complex issue and multiple data systems must be utilized to obtain an accurate picture of the overall problem,” officials said.

In addition to P.I.T. counts, the Lake County Coalition for the Homeless compiled two other reports based on local data.

The annual assessment of coordinator entry report showed that 78% of households reported their homelessness was caused by an experience of physical, psychological, sexual or other type of abuse or trauma.

The report further showed a 75% increase in families who were homeless over the fiscal year 2022.

The system performance measures report includes annualized data on homelessness in Lake County for the year that ended September 30, 2023.

It indicated an increase in overall homelessness, with 85% of the 1,087 people having been unhoused for the first time.

Additionally, the average length of time for sheltered individuals decreased to 93 nights from 107 the previous year.

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“The Lake County Board is very concerned about the overall increase in homelessness, especially the number of families who are currently homeless in our county”, Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart said.

“We are allocating more funding to help increase physical and mental health services, create more job opportunities and expand housing options that people can afford. By working together, we can create the housing stability that will allow our families to succeed,” Hart added.

Community Development Administrator Brenda O’Connell said, “There is no single cause for homelessness, it is a multifaceted issue.”

“We know that we will have less homelessness when rents are affordable, childcare is accessible, gainful employment opportunities are increased and supportive services are available when needed,” O’Connell added.

County officials are crediting the network of services available to help people, like Karina’s family, get back on their feet.

Karina and her two children became homeless for the first time in 2022.

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Karina and her children moved to the area and lived with a cousin until she could get settled on her own.

“Unfortunately, after two months the cousin and their family decided to move out of state, leaving Karina and the two children with nowhere to go,” officials said.

“It was when one of her children told a teacher at school about their situation that a representative from the school district stepped up to help.”

Karina and her family were placed in an emergency shelter through PADS Lake County.

“In less than six months they were matched with Catholic Charities who was able to get them into permanent housing and move forward to a better life for herself and her children,” officials said.

Karina hopes her story provides hope and encouragement to the homeless population in Lake County.

Residents looking to get involved are encouraged to visit the Lake County Coalition for the Homeless website.