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VA Seeks To Better Understand San Diego Veteran Homeless In Census

Photo by Katie Schoolov

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


Dolores Diaz, executive director, Regional Task Force on the Homeless

Anthony Love, Director of Community Engagement, Veterans Health Administration Homeless Programs


Volunteers will fan out across San Diego County on Friday to count San Diego's homeless population. It's a point-in-time snapshot of how many people are living in shelters or on the streets.

The "We All Count" homeless census is conducted every year by the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council even though it's only required every two years.

Dolores Diaz, executive director of the Regional Task Force On the Homeless, says they are doing an annual count because the Veterans Administration, which funds the point-in-time homeless count, is interested in "what the vet count really looks like."

Diaz said on Monday's KPBS Midday Edition that volunteers learn more than just statistics when connecting with homeless individuals.

"When you get up close and personal and talk to a homeless person, and you begin to find out information about them, the things they suffer with, you really find out they’re not a whole lot different than we are," Diaz said. "They’re just not housed.”

Anthony Love, director of community engagement at the Veterans Health Administration Homeless Programs, said the census is about more than just a head count.

"Not only are you counting individuals to have a raw number, you’re also getting demographic information,” said Love. That includes how long people have been homeless, their gender and whether or not they have children.

“It really gives you a more crystallized view of who’s on the street and what resources will be needed to help them exit homelessness as quickly as possible.”

Veterans made up 15 percent of the 4,156 homeless San Diegans not in shelters in 2015, an additional 4,586 people were living in shelters.

Diaz said one of the main problems facing San Diego's homeless is the lack of housing options.

"Our vacancy rate is very small,” Diaz said. "We’re having difficulty finding actual housing that veterans can use."

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