.Homelessness Down in Napa: ‘PIT’ Count indicates shift

Napa County last week released preliminary data showing a decrease in the overall number of individuals experiencing homelessness, but a concerning increase in those experiencing it for the first time.

Currently, the data from the county shows a 16% decrease in the overall count of individuals experiencing homelessness in Napa County between January 2023 and January 2024, according to the preliminary data obtained from the 2024 Point-in-Time Count—an annual census to measure the prevalence of homelessness. Final figures are expected to be presented during a jointly held city and county event on May 21.

Of those counted, 50% (or 213 people) were experiencing homelessness for the first time, representing an increase from the 39% first-time counts in 2023, an increase county officials called “concerning.”

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Napa County spokesperson Linda Weinreich explained that the first-time count is an especially important data point, as it reflects broader economic and housing market issues that are not within the scope of the homeless response system.

“Had the rate simply remained flat year-over-year at 39%, the overall PIT Count this year would have been 379, not 423—or we would have seen a 25% decrease in the total count,” Weinreich said.

However, the overall decline shows the lowest number since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2023, 506 individuals were counted, an increase from 2022 when there were 494 and 2020 when 464 were counted. The 423 total people experiencing homelessness in the county is 16% less than 2023’s 506.

There was no PIT Count in 2021 due to restrictions brought on by the pandemic. As PIT counts typically take place in January, data in 2020 was captured before the massive shutdowns began in March that year.

The PIT Count consists of two primary components—the count of people living in shelters or unsheltered outdoors or in cars, and a survey of more than 250 individuals experiencing both types of homelessness to capture demographic data and other characteristics. This year’s PIT Count included 40 volunteers and 10 peer guides who were matched into 15 teams, Weinreich said.

Other percentage changes to note suggest the county’s effort to expand shelter services has helped to reduce the number of those living outdoors or in cars. The number of individuals sleeping in shelters increased by 34%, and the number of unsheltered individuals declined 42% over the 2023 numbers. With renovations of the South Napa Shelter, located at 100 Hartle Ct., more than 100 new beds were added to serve those in need last year, according to the county release.

Jennifer Palmer, Napa County Housing & Homeless Services director, said the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Napa County is driven by a number of factors, and each individual’s or family’s circumstances is unique. She explained that while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a PIT Count every other year, Napa County elects to conduct one yearly.

“The data we get from the PIT Count helps us turn numbers into action to truly address the community’s needs by understanding to what degree our programs and services are helping individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” Palmer said.

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