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Children and young adults will be counted for the first time as part of a closely watched survey that determines how many people are experiencing homelessness in Nevada County, and could affect future funding and help identify services needed in the region.

The Youth Action Board of Nevada County Regional Continuum of Care – a collaborative partnership with Bright Futures for Youth’s SAFE program, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, United Way of Nevada County and other organizations – will hold six events in the community to connect with youth to determine where they slept on the night of Feb. 23.

This outreach effort supplements the Point in Time survey helping to determine the number of people facing housing instability in the region. The every-other-year survey is mandatory for communities that receive Housing and Urban Development funds for housing and other services, making an accurate count critical for providing much-needed services.

The Point in Time survey identified at least 410 people were experiencing homelessness in Nevada County, from Grass Valley to Truckee, in January 2019. That was an 11% increase from the 371 people dealing with housing instability in 2017, according to the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras (HRCS). (The Covid-19 pandemic postponed the survey in 2021.)

But those surveys primarily looked at adults, creating a far-from-accurate picture of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the community, said Jennifer Singer, Board Chair of the Nevada County Regional Continuum of Care and Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth.

The nonprofit started the SAFE (Stability, Access, Foundation and Empowerment) program in 2019, committed to finding and helping children and young adults faced with housing insecurity in the community.

When the SAFE program started, the goal was to connect with 12 young people (under 25 years old) per year, ensuring they have clothing, food, health care, counseling and other necessities. SAFE has easily exceeded that figure and is helping almost 50 young people today – and has served more than 80 youth and families faced with housing instability during the past three years.

“An accurate count of homeless youth is critical to developing programs and services that most effectively serve their needs, measure our progress in addressing the issue and, of course, preventing and ending homelessness down the road,” Singer said.

“We know housing instability is a huge issue just from the demand for the SAFE program and our services, but the survey is more evidence of an increasing and often hard-to-see challenge in our community.”

The Point-in-Time survey will ask youth, those 12 to 25 years old, where they slept on the night of Feb. 23. Youth couch surfing with family members, staying in a tent or shed on someone’s property, crashing at a friend’s house, staying in a motel, sleeping in a car or somewhere outside are considered experiencing homelessness, according to the survey.

County officials and employees, staff from other participating organizations and volunteers will connect with youth and encourage them to complete the 10-minute survey. The information collected is confidential, said Aurora Packard, Program Director of SAFE.

“We want to determine how many young people are experiencing homelessness, and show the need for more outreach and services in the community,” Packard said.

Youth who complete the 10-minute survey will receive a $10 gift card, and have access to numerous services and basic needs, including clothing, food and health care.

Youth can complete the surveys on:

Feb. 24: 4-6 p.m. at Condon Park

Feb. 25: 4-6 p.m. at Dow Alexander Park, also known as Triangle Park

Feb. 28: 4-6 p.m. at Western Gateway Park

March 1: 4-6 p.m. at North San Juan Family Resource Center

March 2: 4-6 p.m. at Forest Charter School in Nevada City

March 3: 4-6 p.m. at Holiday Market – Lake of the Pines area