KINGMAN –Medical conditions, substance abuse, and mental and physical disabilities are contributing to homelessness in Mohave County, in which the homeless population has risen over the course of last year.
The annual Point in Time homeless count survey was conducted from Jan. 24-28, when 10 agencies and some 42 volunteers canvased the homeless populations in Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.
The survey found there are approximately 281 unsheltered homeless individuals within the county; 90 in Kingman, 93 in Bullhead City and 98 in Lake Havasu City. The 2017 survey found 235 homeless persons in the county and 89 in Kingman.
“A lot may have to do with our location and being on a major interstate with I-40,” said Dave Wolf, community services director at the Mohave County Community Services Department, of the increase in homeless individuals. “People coming through town, breaking down or ending up here and thinking they can get jobs here, and it just doesn’t materialize for them.”
Not all of the 309 surveys sent to the Arizona Department of Housing counted toward the official tally due to incomplete responses, and not all surveys taken were included in the 309 figure for the same reason. The results are preliminary and will be finalized by the ADOH Continuum of Care in the coming months. HUD relays the survey responses to Congress to help it better understand the homeless population and what efforts are successful nationwide.
“A lot of the people have mental illness or substance abuse issues, which are some of the reasons why they end up in homelessness to begin with,” Wolf said.
Homeless people were given a survey asking a number of questions such as age, how long they had been without a home, the reason for being displaced from their last home, sources of income, current employment status and existence of medical conditions. A key figure in both the preliminary and the coming final tally, the number of homeless people, was addressed by the question, “Where did you spend the night of Jan. 23?”
“We’re counting those people that are basically just living in a place not meant for human habitation,” Wolf said. He added that HUD uses that classification to identify homeless people. “It doesn’t recognize people that are couch surfing or living with family or friends.”
In Kingman, the 2018 survey found there were 43 first-time homeless and 52 who have had more than one instance of homelessness in the past three years. First time homeless countywide comprised 44.6 percent of those surveyed, while 55.4 percent had more than one instance of homelessness in the past three years.
Males were the dominant population of homeless in Kingman at 65 compared to 21 females. Countywide figures showed 209 and 65, respectively. The age range for the highest rate of homeless people for both Kingman and the county as a whole was from ages 45-54.
A category that did not increase in the past year was homeless veterans. The number decreased from 62 in 2017 to 61 in 2018. Wolf noted decreasing the veteran homeless population is a primary goal of HUD.
“What we were seeing is ever increasing numbers of veterans homeless and that has stabilized. That’s a good thing,” he said.
The county has in recent years received financial assistance from HUD to target the homeless veteran population, but has struggled to receive funding for other categories of homeless people.
“We used to be a rural continuum of care but based on the HUD definition, when one city reaches 50,000 population within a county, that county is no longer considered rural,” Wolf said. As such, Mohave County competes nationally with major cities for funding. “We’re competing against major cities, those people have a lot more homeless numbers.”
However, there are ways other than securing HUD funding in which Mohave County strives to help homeless individuals. There are organizations within the county that work together through donations and services to provide a better quality of life for those who may be struggling with homelessness. Organizations that participated in the survey are:
LHC and BHC Catholic Charities, JAVC, WACOG, Cornerstone Mission, VA, VRC, Interagency Council of Lake Havasu, Frankie Lyons Veterans United of Arizona and the Mohave County Community Services Department.