Data from the annual federally mandated Point in Time count found 1,897 homeless people in Santa Barbara County, a 5 percent increase compared to the 2019 tally.

Results show there are about 1,223 “unsheltered” people in the county and 674 individuals living in emergency shelters or transitional housing, according to the numbers released Tuesday.

Last year, the official count found 1,803 homeless in the county on a given day.

“There was a notable increase in unsheltered persons living in their vehicles between 2019 and 2020,” Kimberlee Albers, homeless assistance programs manager for the county, said in a news release. “While communities across the state of California have not yet released their 2020 Point in Time count numbers, many counties experienced double-digit increases in the homeless population between 2017 and 2019.”

Albers said other data highlights include: 

» About 90 families with 185 children under the age of 18 were homeless the night of the count, a decrease of 22 percent from 2019. The data does not include families doubled up, paying for a motel or at risk of homelessness.

» About 51 percent of the persons in the unsheltered count (1,223) were living in vehicles (629), an increase of 31 percent from 2019. 

» About 613 people were experiencing chronic homelessness, an increase of 45 percent from last year. 

» About 210 veterans were experiencing homelessness, an increase of 83 percent compared to 2019. 

About 1,292 people — or 68 percent — were on the South Coast, while 387 individuals were in North County, and 218 homeless were counted in mid-county. 

The homeless population in Lompoc and Santa Maria decreased compared to last year, while nearly all areas along the South Coast had increases, according to Albers.

“Increases are attributed to more persons counted that are living in their vehicles,” Albers said.

The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and it serves as a snapshot of homelessness in the county on a single day, Albers said.

Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care conducted the count on Jan. 29.

Continuum of Care promotes community-wide planning and strategic use of resources and programs targeted to people experiencing homelessness. The county is the lead agency for the program.

The Northern Santa Barbara County United Way Home for Good, Simtech Solutions and more than 500 volunteers participated.

Home for Good recruited hundreds of volunteers to help with the survey, including 435 people who showed up at 5:30 a.m. to canvas 89 census tracts across the county. 

A more comprehensive report is slated to be released later in the year after official submission to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to Albers.

“The Point in Time count effort illustrates that there is still much work to do to address homelessness,” Continuum of Care Chairman Rob Fredericks said in a statement. “Thankfully, we have committed resources and dedicated partners to pursue solutions across the county.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.