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Imperial County's Homeless Population Has Tripled Since Last Year

May 11, 2017 1:21 p.m.

Imperial County's Homeless Population Has Tripled Since Last Year

GUEST:

Susan Murphy, reporter, KPBS News

Related Story: High Unemployment, Low Wages Drive Growing Homeless Population In Imperial County

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

San Diego, the 9000 individuals in the County. It is not respect County lines. They were conducted in the more sparsely populated county. They found of the number of homeless had almost tripled. Reporter Susan Mark the is in Imperial County to help us break down the information. Welcome to the program.
Good afternoon from Imperial County.
Last year Imperial Counties point in time count of nearly 400,000 people. What is the number this year.
The number this year is about 1100 homeless people were telling in the January count. If you compare that the per capita rate is two times the state homelessness rate so it is a really huge problem here.
Even now the numbers are lower than in San Diego the increase in the homeless population is really pretty incredible. It is almost a 200% increase. What accounts for this?
This is one of the highest poverty areas in the nation. The unemployment rate here is nearly 20% and the rest of the nation is four point 4%. About a quarter of people here live in poverty a lot of them are surviving solely on income from food stamps. It is a high poverty area. The unemployment plus the low wages are huge contributing factors.
Some of the people said they had more volunteers to count this time to that affect the numbers.
Yes that didn't -- affect the numbers. I talked to the assistant state attorney Deborah Owens and got her take on the high numbers. She said that a more thorough count with more volunteers County definitely played a role the
The reason I think we are hesitant to say there are more homeless able is that this point in time count is based on a coordinated effort and volunteers. Before it was difficult to get volunteers in terms of that coordinated approach. So when Nancy indicates we are not saying this is triple the amount of homeless people we believe because of tripling the amount of volunteers we have and more effective in grasping that snapshot
A lot of people just like in San Diego the homeless population who they sleep on the streets and on park benches outside on tents and in sidewalks. There is an area called Plant City for the homeless people go. The same trends we have seen in San Diego. We had a increase in our count an increase in the uncharted population. In downtown of course we also had a 104% chance so we are seeing similar trends throughout the state.
Kind of resources to they have for the homeless.
They have some of your basic resources but they are lacking a lot of resources. They mentioned they are lacking shelter beds. This year's count found 128 people who were sleeping in shelter beds. That is the same number as 2016. That leaves the majority of people slipping out side on the street. The reason is they do not have shelters here.
The conditions here are very harsh. In the summers they are blistering hot. Temperatures can sort up to 120 degrees. That is common. Rain barely exceeds a few inches per year. And might also come with frost. There's a lot of harsher conditions and are in San Diego. You know very well that San Diego is trying to do to transition homeless people into a permanent housing. Are they also trying to go with that strategy.
Imperial County has just formed a task force. They are calling it the continuum of care. Started this new organization to start planning for resources. They want to build more shelters. Portable housing and permanent supportive housing are also plans that they also want to have a better system for tracking people and the issues they are dealing with whether it is drug addictions or substance abuse. Mental illness. So they are going to do this coordinated entry system which will be the first plan of attack in helping to at least reduce this issue.
As email the purpose of the count is to get federal funding which is mandated I heard housing and urban development so they received federal funding depending on counts that different counties conduct every year.
I've been speaking with reporter Susan Murphy in Imperial County. Thank you.