by Photo courtesy of Nathan Fletcher via Twitter

Homelessness in San Diego has increased by at least 10 percent since 2020, according to a report released by the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness though officials warn the actual number is much higher. 

Over a thousand volunteers across the county took to the streets on Feb.24, and it was the first count since January 2020, before the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials warn that the numbers may worsen as housing subsidies and protections expire. 

The 2022 WeAllCount Point-in-Time Count is a one-day snapshot of the minimum number of San Diegans living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, safe havens, and on streets, and along riverbeds. The count found 8,427 people experiencing homelessness across San Diego County, a minimum number.

“The challenges of finding every person in a car, canyon, or under a bridge, is impossible, but every effort is made to find and engage as many people as we can,'' a statement from the RTFH read. 

The other 4,106 lived outside of shelters, with 4,321 individuals in shelters. Of those surveyed, 85 percent said they had fallen into homelessness while living in the region.

The Regional Task Force on Homelessness said comparisons between 2020 and 2022 should not be measured by the same standard. The task force said that several factors, including heavy rains the night before and frigid temperatures the morning of the count, may have impacted the number of people sleeping outside. 

The number of people sleeping outside without shelter increased by 3 percent, according to the task force. Families experiencing homelessness were up 56 percent compared to the 2020 count, and Black San Diegans, who make up under 5 percent of the total population in San Diego County, made up 24 percent of the region's unsheltered homeless population. 

Despite the grim numbers, the task force reported a decrease in the veteran homeless population by 30 percent and in the chronic homelessness population by 7 percent. 

The county also saw an increase in transitional aged youth in shelters and additional shelter options. A large housing effort downtown housed roughly 150 in the week leading up to the count. 

This year’s Point in Time count found that one in four unsheltered people were over 55. Nearly half of that number were seniors experiencing homelessness for the first time, with 57 percent reporting to have a disability. According to the report, the oldest person surveyed living on the street in San Diego County was 87.

San Diego County supervisors in February approved a pilot shallow subsidy program to support seniors who might otherwise fall into homelessness. The San Diego City Council also recently approved a no-fault eviction moratorium set to go into effect next week that is aimed at protecting residents who are not behind on rent. Chula Vista is also considering an ordinance to protect tenants from no-fault evictions, though a decision is yet to be made. 

“The Point-in-Time Count is about much more than numbers – it's about people,'' RTFH CEO Tamera Kohler said. “Right now too many people are suffering in San Diego. They're mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. They fell into homelessness due to a lost job, a lost spouse, or some other crisis beyond their control.”

 “Add in the fact that we live in the most expensive housing market in the country, where double-digit rent increases are common, and you can see why too many San Diegans are left behind,'' she said. “The people our volunteers spoke to — from a senior with Alzheimer's sleeping in a tent, to a family sheltering in their car, to people with a full-time job but not enough income to pay rent — aren't just numbers on a spreadsheet. They're our neighbors, doing their best to survive.'"

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