Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Homelessness is up and funding is down was the main message by local aid organizations at a hearing today.
The California State Assembly's Select Committee on Homelessness heard concerns and suggestions. And while the main focus of the hearings was the rates of those who are chronically homeless and those of homeless veterans, the issue of episodic homelessness is increasingly becoming a major concern.
With high unemployment driving more people out of their homes, local shelters are seeing a rise in newly homeless families.
Assembly member Toni Atkins of San Diego said the Regional Task Force on the Homeless saw a decline in chronic homelessness numbers, but a significant spike in episodic homelessness.
"These are individuals or families who are having trouble making rent or even getting meals," Atkins said. "We've seen a rise from 5,000 of these individuals last year to 9,000 this year,"
Atkins, a Democrat, said since most programs concentrate on the chronically homeless, most of whom suffer from mental health issues and/or substance abuse, solutions for the short-term homeless need to be developed.
Brenda Espino, a homeless woman and disabled veteran, complained at the hearing about the priorities of the aid organizations in town. "My status has caused me to fall through every crack in every lauded system that you have named here today," she told the committee.
Espino, who has been homeless for six months, said she had been turned away while, many chronically homeless people with substance abuse problems are put in front of the line for help.
"I don't have a drug habit," she said, " I just need a place to live and something to eat."
Funding for local homeless aid programs is also down. Father Joe Carroll of Father Joe's Villages said that helping these families arriving in record numbers is becoming harder.
"Donations are down, grants are down, and federal and state funding is down. So the agencies are going to cutting down dramatically," Carroll said.
He remains optimistic, however, crediting the efforts of the committee and the combined efforts of the local organizations like his.
"I'm excited about the future and concerned about the present, but at least we're making a plan," he said.
There are more than 9,000 homeless in San Diego County, about 2,000 of whom are veterans.
A report released in June showed the rising number of homeless families in the region.