Conducted every year by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, the count this past January showed that 8,576 men, women and children are living on the street or in shelters, compared to the 9,116 counted in 2017. The results, announced at a news conference Thursday, are used to apply for federal funds to help local homeless people and to find solutions on how to best serve those most vulnerable in our community.
Of the 8,576 homeless people in the region, 4,990 were unsheltered this year compared to 5,621 last year, an 11 percent drop. Also, 3,596 were sheltered, compared to 3,495 last year, a nearly 3 percent decrease.
“Seeing the overall number decline was a positive reversal, but there are far too many swings in data to declare a trend or to not see other areas where we need to increase our focus,” said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who chairs the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.
“We continue to face many challenges, highlighted by a lack of new housing, a condition that squeezes hardest those with the fewest resources. The only marginal decrease in the number of chronically homeless is among my biggest concerns.”
After a steady decline the last few years, veteran homelessness rose 24 percent, with 1,312 counted as opposed to 1,054 a year earlier. The number of homeless veterans remains down 20 percent from 2011’s count.
County addressing affordable housing, homelessness
Over the past few years, the County has taken more aggressive steps to address affordable housing and homelessness in the region. And in the recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the County has dedicated more than $175 million and 120 new jobs to meet the needs of the region’s most vulnerable residents, including those at risk or experiencing homelessness.
The County is also working to make housing in the region more affordable. It has created a $25 million Housing Trust Fund for seniors, veterans and other vulnerable people. The goal is to generate 400-600 new affordable housing units. The County is repurposing excess property and turning it into affordable housing.
Furthermore, a record high of more than $650 million will go toward behavioral health services, tripling the investment in drug and alcohol treatment programs.
Two years ago, the County launched Project One for All, an extensive effort to provide intensive wraparound services, including mental health counseling and housing, to homeless individuals with serious mental illness. Since the program began, 605 homeless people now have a permanent place to live and are receiving needed treatment and resources. Funding for Project One for All will continue.
Working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the County manages the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program which offers rental assistance to homeless veterans and ongoing VA case management and supportive services. More than 525 homeless veterans have been housed in San Diego County since the program began in 2009.
The budget will fund 50 Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams and the County’s Whole Person Wellness program, which aims to help 1,000 homeless Medi-Cal patients who cycle in and out of emergency rooms.
The County will continue providing public health, behavioral health and self-sufficiency services at the City of San Diego’s three tent shelters.
More than 1,600 people participated in this year’s homeless count, including more than 500 County employees. For complete results of the count, visit the San Diego Task Force on the Homeless website.
José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office.