Count shows Kingman has most homeless in Mohave County

A homeless woman tends to her precious belongings Tuesday afternoon in downtown Kingman. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

A homeless woman tends to her precious belongings Tuesday afternoon in downtown Kingman. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

KINGMAN - Kingman might be the least populated of the three incorporated cities in Mohave County, but there are twice as many homeless people in the Kingman area than there are in Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City combined, according to a survey taken every two years.

The high number is attributed to Kingman's status as a transportation hub accessible from Interstate 40 and a number of highways and other factors.

The groups that performed the survey, which is conducted every odd-numbered year at the request of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, are known locally as the Mohave County Continuum of Care.

"This count is just a point in time survey," said Dave Wolf, the housing and community revitalization manager for the county's Community Services Department. "It was about, this is how many homeless people on this day."

HUD analysts will take the information and extrapolate the numbers to determine a best guess census.

The Community Services Department partners with local nonprofits and federal and state agencies that specifically work with the homeless population, such as Cornerstone Mission (the only homeless shelter in the county), St. Vincent DePaul, the Salvation Army, the Jerry Ambrose Council of Veterans, the Veterans Resource Center, Kingman Aid to Abused People and the Western Arizona Council of Governments.

No matter where the county's homeless live, most are older than 40, male - and a surprising percentage of them claim to be veterans of the U.S. military.

According to the 2015 Mohave County point in time homeless survey that was conducted last month, 163 homeless people were in Kingman during the three-day count that took place from Jan. 28 through Jan. 30, and 47 of them, 28.83 percent, said they are veterans.

Seventy-one said they were over the age of 40 and 37 members of this age group claimed they served the country at one point in their lives. Nine of the 31 homeless people between the ages of 25 and 40 said they were veterans and one of the 14 homeless people under age 25 said the same.

Sixteen of the 163 were couples and five of those surveyed had at least one child in their custody.

In Bullhead City, a total of 80 homeless people were surveyed, of which 27 said they were veterans - 33.75 percent - including 25 over the age of 40 and one each between 25-40 and under 25.

Two were couples with children.

Lake Havasu City apparently doesn't have much of a homeless population, with only a total of 11 surveyed, 10 that were older than 40, four of whom claimed prior military service.

Countywide, 254 homeless people were surveyed and 78 said they were veterans, 30.71 percent.

Wolf emphasized the count is just a snapshot and cold, rainy, foggy weather during this year's count probably hampered efforts to locate more homeless people in the county. He noted not all homeless people want to be counted. Mental illness is prevalent and many homeless live far from the county's developed areas.

Last summer, a local count of the homeless yielded 91 in Kingman, 71 in Bullhead City and 23 in Lake Havasu City.

Two years ago, 184 homeless people were surveyed countywide and 59 claimed to be veterans. The data suggests the homeless population among veterans is growing while the overall numbers remain somewhat stable. In 2011, for example, only 49 of the 204 homeless people surveyed said they were veterans.

The ultimate goal for local advocates is to find housing for the homeless - a group that is not always willing to help itself.

"Half or more are seriously mentally ill," said Wolf.

Jennifer Burch, who works with Wolf, said outreach is key.

"Maybe they are homeless by choice, but they can change their mind and be people who would want help," she said.

She said it could take up to year or longer to build trust with a homeless person before he or she would agree to seek even a modicum of assistance.

For Wolf and Burch, who have a combined 25 years working with the homeless in Mohave County, the endgame is to end homelessness.

"What keeps us going is the partnerships with our other agencies," said Wolf. "When someone needs help, emails go out. Somebody in the Continuum of Care is going to have a solution. We take it one day of time."

"We're very proud of the Continuum of Care in Mohave County," said Burch. "Hopefully, we'll be able to help a lot more people."