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Economy

San Diego County's Homeless Population Drops 4 Percent

Estimated four-year trend of homelessness in San Diego County.
Regional Taskforce on the Homeless San Diego
Estimated four-year trend of homelessness in San Diego County.

A recent point-in-time count of San Diego County’s homeless population found 8,520 people on the streets, in cars or in shelters – a 4 percent decrease from 2013.

San Diego County's Homeless Population Drops 4 Percent
A recent point-in-time count of San Diego County’s homeless population found 8,520 people on the streets, in cars or in shelters – a 4 percent decrease from 2013.

The numbers were collected on Jan. 24 by 1,300 volunteers who scoured the county by foot and car during predawn hours to get a head count.

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Volunteers Barbara Palan and Shannon Quigley-Raymond help out in San Diego's 2013 homeless census.
Katie Schoolov
Volunteers Barbara Palan and Shannon Quigley-Raymond help out in San Diego's 2013 homeless census.

The annual count, known as WeALLCount, is conducted in cities nationwide for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUDD) to determine where to direct funds.

San Diego County uses the information to identify strategies and services to address and alleviate homelessness.

The count is not an exact number, but rather a snapshot, Dolores Diaz, executive director of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, said at a news conference Thursday morning at the United Way Building.

“It’s important to note that volunteers cannot canvas every canyon, every part of the riverbed,” Diaz said. “We have no way of knowing how many people were missed in abandoned buildings or hidden places.”

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On that day in January, 3,985 people were found to be unsheltered, a 13 percent decrease from last year's single-day count, according to the report.

The number of people staying in shelters was 4,305 – a 5 percent increase from 2013.

More than 60 percent of the homeless population was found in the city of San Diego. Of the 5,213 found within city limits, 2,745 were sheltered and 2,468 were unsheltered.

The inland region of North County represented the county's second largest homeless population with 1,024, and South County was third with 853 homeless persons.

Jeff Gering, CEO and director of the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said he uses the numbers as a benchmark of progress being made to end veteran homelessness as well as a measure for future HUD funding to permanently house homeless veterans.

“I was encouraged to see the numbers of unsheltered homeless veterans decline,” Gering said. “The number of sheltered homeless veterans is about par from last year, which is a little bit disappointing.”

Partly to blame is the increased number of veterans coming to San Diego, he said.

“Our workload at the Veterans Center is up 5 percent this year, and San Diego County is the No. 1 destination for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population in the nation, according to a HUD report.