Measuring Homelessness


The European Federation of National Associations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) put forward the ETHOS typology in 2005.21 It classifies people who are homeless according to their living or ‘home’ situation: roofless (without a shelter of any kind, ‘sleeping rough’), houseless (with a place to sleep, but temporary in an institution or shelter), insecure (threatened with severe exclusion due to insecure tenancies, evictions, domestic violence) or inadequate (in caravans on illegal campsites, in unfit housing, in extreme overcrowding).

  • Roofless – on the street
  • Houseless – in shelters
  • Insecure – housed, but fragile tenancy
  • Inadequate – in cars, trailers, and over-crowded and unfit housing

The Point in Time Count should report how many homeless there are in Sonoma County in the four categories above, and how that compares with previous year counts.
Types of Homelessness

  • Transitional or Situational –  This is when someone is forced into homelessness because of uncontrollable circumstances such as losing a job, important material lost, lost of main breadwinner(father, husband, wife) etc.
  • Episodic –  This is when a person repeatedly falls in and out of homelessness. This often happens with drug addicts and with people experiencing mental health issues. The person might live episodes of severe depression cyclical way and fall back in homelessness when these occur. Same for someone with drug abuse issues. The person may be able to stop consuming for certain periods of time and get off the street, while being at high risk of homelessness all the time.
  • Chronic – This is when an individual is in the street for a long period of time and very few or no resources are at their disposition to modify their situation. Often, these people will suffer from mental health issues. They won’t have the ability to modify their situation without the support of others. It is very rare that someone will be homeless all of his or her life on a voluntary basis.  

The definition of ‘chronic homelessness’ that was adopted by the United States of America (USA)’s Federal Government and the Interagency Council on Homelessness among others reads as follows: ‘An unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either a) been continuously homeless for a year or more OR b) has had at least 4 episodes of homelessness in the past three years’. Disabling conditions refer to mental health issues, alcohol and drug abuse, and medical comorbidities.

  • What has been the success of shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive service housing in reducing episodic homelessness?
    • How many disabled homeless with 4 or more episodes of homelessness in the period from 2012-2015 experienced an episode of homelessness during the period from 2015-2018?  How many were homeless at the end of 2017-18?
  • What has been the success of existing shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive service housing in reducing chronic homelessness?  
    • How many disabled homeless who were continuously homeless during the period from 2014-15 were still homeless at the end of each successive program year?
  • What has been the success of supportive services in retaining permanent housing?  
    • How many homeless who were placed in permanent supportive housing in each of the program years from 2015-16 retained their housing for six months, 12 months?
  • What percentage those contacted by the outreach and navigation workers throughout the County over the past three years who were in transitional or situational homelessness are still homeless?
  • What evidence that our homeless facility and service expenditures have impacted the ability of those housed in our shelters, or placed in transitional or permanent housing, to improve their capability to avoid homelessness?  Have their incomes increased? Have they achieved their own rental leases? Have they attended and completed rehabilitation programs? Are they receiving public benefits not enrolled in previously? Has their self-sufficiency by any measure improved?
  • Have we, or are we, working toward becoming capable of collecting this data or using these measures to decide how to develop effective solutions to achieving our goals?

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