Those who work with the valley's homeless say an upcoming census probably will reveal an increase in the number of people who have found themselves without a home for the first time in their lives.
And the number of "first-time homeless" could soon rise as those who have managed to get by with temporary help from family and friends begin exhausting those resources.
"I think there may be a delay before we see the full impact," said Shannon West, regional homeless services coordinator for Clark County. "We'll see people who have doubled up with family and friends start falling into homelessness because of financial and relationship issues."
But West said she doesn't anticipate the county's first homeless count since 2007, scheduled for Jan. 28-29, to show a great overall increase in the homeless population.
That's because outreach workers have focused intensely in recent years on getting "chronic" street people into homes and because, West believes, many people have left town after they couldn't find jobs. Local emergency rental assistance programs, such as that offered by the county, also have helped many avoid outright homelessness, she said.
Chronic homelessness is typically defined as experiencing several bouts of homelessness over a few years or being homeless for a year or more.
"I'm feeling like we're not going to see huge new numbers of street homeless," West said. "But it will be interesting to see how many people are homeless because they lost a job or because of foreclosure."
This month's census will be the county's third count of the local homeless population. The 2007 census found that on any given day, about 11,400 people are homeless in Clark County.
The point-in-time estimates of homelessness include shelter numbers, people counted on the street and those identified through surveys as "the hidden homeless," people living with others because they can't afford their own residences.
Linda Lera-Randle El, director of the Straight From the Streets homeless outreach program, also said it might take a while before the tanking economy and high unemployment result in a large increase in local homelessness.
"It may not hit us for this count, but maybe for the next one," she said. "People are still taking their families in. It's slowly trickling down."
Lera-Randle El said she has been hearing from many people who are terrified about the future.
"People are frightened to death of becoming homeless," she said. "There's more fear and uncertainty than I've ever seen."
The long-time outreach worker also said she has noticed more families on the streets with no place to go. They try to be inconspicuous, she said.
"Families hide because they're afraid their kids will be taken away because of their economic standing," she said.
Kathleen Boutin, founder of Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, said the agency has seen the number of homeless young people stopping by its drop-in center on Maryland Parkway double since this time last year.
Increasingly, they are not alone.
"We're seeing more families on the street," Boutin said.
Social service providers use homeless census numbers when applying for federal assistance and other aid to help fight homelessness.
A National Alliance to End Homelessness report released today ranked the percentage of Nevadans who are homeless the highest in the U.S.
The majority of the state's homeless people live in Southern Nevada.
The nonpartisan advocacy group is expected to release its most recent rankings in the next few days.
Applied Survey Research, a California-based nonprofit social research firm that completed the 2007 census and has done similar counts in Los Angeles and Atlanta, will manage this month's $130,000 homeless census.
Count organizers need hundreds of volunteers to help. To volunteer, call 455-5832 or visit www.HelpHopeHome.org.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285.