Every year, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) gathers immense amounts of data on homeless persons during a one-day count, usually in late January. This annual Point-In-Time count is used to determine funding allocation from the state and federal government as well as provide local government with information for future policy.
This year, San Diego got that snapshot of homeless on Friday, Jan. 27.
The San Diego region has 9,116 homeless people, which is a 5 percent increase from last year and a 3 percent increase from 2013. Broken down, 3,945 are sheltered, a decrease of 6 percent from 2016, while 5,621 are unsheltered, an increase of 14 percent from 2016.
Numbers to pay attention to are the number of unsheltered homeless veterans, mentally ill, substance abusers, and chronically homeless. Of the 5,621, 8 percent are veterans, 39 percent self-report a mental health issue, 20 percent self-report a substance abuse issue, and 31 percent are chronically homeless.
Broken down by region, South County saw its numbers drop by 21 percent, the biggest change in any region. Following are North County Inland and the City of San Diego, with an 11 percent and 10 percent increase, respectively.
“When we look at the five year trend for the City of San Diego, we see a 2 percent decrease,” said RTFH executive director Dolores Diaz. “Even though we have a trend of a 2 percent decrease, homelessness is more visible with the tents and hand-built structures.
“One sobering piece of data is that our region saw a 58 percent increase in the number of tents and hand-built structures in addition to a 16 percent increase in persons sleeping in vehicles.”
Diaz recognizes homeless youth as a growing issue as of late.
“Homeless youth are very difficult to count because they tend to hide,” she said. “The number of unaccompanied youth has increased by 39 percent.”
For unaccompanied minors, the number decreased by 53 percent, but for unaccompanied transitional youth (ages 18-24), the number increased by 58 percent. Diaz warns, “We need to address homeless for those 18 to 24 year olds. They are the chronic homeless of tomorrow.”
One bright point and key takeaway is the homeless veteran population. The numbers show a general downward trend, with a 9 percent decrease in veterans from last year and an overall 29 percent decrease since 2013.
“That is an indicator that we can see success when we have an emphasis on efforts to house our veterans,” touted Diaz. The number for sheltered veterans increased from last year by 3 percent and the number of veterans without shelter dropped by 21 percent.
“When you have a regional crisis, you need regional solutions – you need everybody working together. If you want to change things, you need to do things differently,” Faulconer said.
“All of us collectively last year said we were gonna make veteran homeless our number one priority.” Indeed the results reflect Faulconer’s statements. Since last year, 996 new housing units have been opened up for homeless veterans, which cut the number of homeless veterans by a third.
But Faulconer insists there is more to do. Earlier this month, on April 3, he, alongside tourism, lodging, and civic leaders, proposed a ballot measure that includes the City of San Diego’s first dedicated source of funding for homelessness.
“This ballot measure would more than triple the amount of funding the City of San Diego currently invests in homelessness,” Faulconer said.
With more information, the leaders of the San Diego region now have a better idea on how to move forward to tackle homelessness. Next year’s Point-In-Time count will take place on Jan. 26. For more information on the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, visit www.rtfhsd.org.