Number of Homeless People on St. John Climbs to 30, According to Latest Count

Data from the latest Homeless Count, above, details the number of residents living on the streets across the territory.

The number of St. John residents without homes grew from 25 to 30 over the past two years, according to the latest count.

About 10 volunteers took part in the biennial homeless count on January 29, canvassing both Coral Bay and Cruz Bay. The count is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development which funds local homeless assistance organizations, according to Shelley Williams, director of Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, St. Thomas/St. John (COAST).

“HUD funds local homeless assistance planning networks called Continuums of Care,” said Williams. “The primary responsibility of a CoC is to organize and deliver housing and services for people who are homeless in each community. HUD requires CoCs to undertake a community-wide effort to collect information on the number and characteristics of individuals and families experiencing homelessness on a single night.”

“These one-night counts, called point-in-time counts, must be conducted at least every other year — in odd calendar years — during the last 10 days in January,” Williams said. “The PIT count also includes estimates of particular homeless subpopulations, such as chronically homeless people, veterans, and unaccompanied children.”

The numbers are needed in order for local organizations to receive federal funding to help homeless residents, explained St. John Community Foundation executive director Celia Kalousek, who volunteered for the effort.


“In order to get funds from the federal government for homeless programs, we need to do these counts,” said Kalousek. “Once the numbers are in, then the federal government decides how to dole out the money to help the homeless.”


The weekly soup kitchen at Nazareth Lutheran Church hall is one example of how federal funding helps homeless residents on the island.

“Non-profit agencies are unable to assist our homeless without proper funding,” said Williams.

During the count, homeless residents are asked how they ended up in their present situation and whether or not they are substance abusers, mentally ill or disabled.

Of the 30 homeless residents on St. John, more than half identified themselves as substance abusers and almost half deemed themselves as chronically homeless, Williams explained.

“Chronically homeless people are defined by the Interagency Council on the Homeless as continuously homeless for a year or longer, or having had at least four homeless episodes during the last three years,” she said.

Of the 30 homeless residents counted on St. John, seven said they were victims of domestic violence, 17 said they were substance abusers, two said they were veterans, eight said they were disabled and 12 identified themselves as chronically homeless.

Homeless counts were also conducted on St. Thomas and St. Croix on January 29. On St. Thomas a total of 193 homeless residents were counted and on St. Croix there were 140.

While the figures on St. John were the lowest in the territory, when the total population of the island is taken into consideration, the picture is grim, according to Williams.

“The number is not as high as I thought, but if you consider the size of the population, St. John has more homeless per population size than both St. Thomas or St. Croix,” Williams said.

Taking part in the homeless count made Kalousek realize how vulnerable residents are to ending up on the street, she explained.

“It was an amazing experience,” said the SJCF executive director. “Most of the people I talked to started out with a medical accident and then couldn’t go to work and then couldn’t pay rent and ended up homeless. I would say that 50 people I know are one medical accident and two paychecks away from homeless, including me.”