The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report ranking San Diego among the nation’s top four cities with the largest homeless population this past November.
According to the yearly reports, 10,013 homeless people resided in San Diego in 2010, 8,506 last year and 8,742 are currently homeless.
The HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report is based on a one-night process when volunteers across the nation conduct a count of local homeless populations living on the streets and homeless populations living in shelters in late January.
Though the homeless population increased from last year, San Diego County has seen a net decrease in homelessness of 3.1 percent since 2011. The U.S. also experienced an 11-percent decline since 2010, when President Obama launched Opening Doors, the nation’s first-ever comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Between 2010 and January 2015, veteran homelessness declined 36 percent, family homelessness declined 19 percent and chronic homelessness declined 22 percent.
Monica Ball a community volunteer for the 25 Cities Project, a national effort to end homelessness, blames the lack of affordable housing for the large homeless population.
“The increase in numbers, particularly in downtown, is a residual effect of our failure to meet the inventory demands for housing those who cannot care for themselves,” she told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “San Diego has basically 0-percent renting; a landlord can list a place on Craig’s List in the morning and have it filled by the afternoon.”
To remedy this issue through creation of additional and affordable housing, the San Diego Housing Commission implemented a three-year homelessness action plan in 2014, impacting as many as 1,500 homeless San Diegans. Katie Keach, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Office of San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria, said that the Regional Continuum of Care Council is moving forward with housing programs seeing as other cities and states have been able to declare an end to homelessness by providing stable housing.
“Implementing Housing First is the most significant action we are taking to address homelessness,” Keach told the UCSD Guardian. “Housing First is the concept that connecting people to adequate shelter and then connecting them to the supportive services they need is the best way to end the cycle of homelessness.”
San Diego recently transitioned its interim housing facility from a 16-week winter tent system to a year-round indoor housing facility in order to use homeless service funds more effectively, according to a newsletter from the Office of Councilmember Todd Gloria.
Between the program’s opening this past April to Sept. 30, 1,414 clients were served, 53 percent of clients who exited the program found more stable housing and 87 percent left with at least one source of income.
The homeless are encouraged to participate in service programs with housing facilities as opposed to living outside in public neighborhoods. While individuals who give directly to homeless people on the streets may have good intentions, Keach said that they are keeping them from seeking more effective, long-term assistance.
“I encourage all San Diegans who want to help alleviate homelessness to direct their resources (time or funds) to organizations who are dedicated to truly ending the cycle of homelessness,” Keach explained. “Handing out food or money to individuals on the street is not encouraged; by contributing those resources to an organization, they can help connect people to the services and shelter they need.”