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San Diego Homeless Count Kicks Off

Susan Murphy
Homeless people stand in front of their make-shift shelters on 17th Street in San Diego's East Village, June 28, 2016.
San Diego Homeless Count Kicks Off
San Diego Homeless Count Kicks Off
San Diego Homeless Count Kicks Off GUEST: Dolores Diaz, executive director, Regional Task Force on the Homeless

Officials appear was taken today will fear what they are ready expect hundreds of volunteers for the annual pointing time homeless count. And the number of people's be on the streets and in cars will be tallied and those numbers sent to the federal government for homeless resource allocations. Several local counterparty indicated that the amount of homelessness in San Diego is increasing and in some areas dramatically. Joining me is Dolores Diaz executive director of the regional task force on the homeless. Is there any preliminary data that was conducted this morning that you can share with us. Well, I can tell you, that we did have a record number of volunteers out this morning. Between 4 AM and 7 AM counting. We had 53 deployment centers regionwide. That's a record number. And you know, I can tell you, we do not have results of the count yet. It will take us a while before we habit. But we do have anecdotal stories coming from the street. You know, a lot more tense people's -- a lot more people sleeping in tents and vehicles than ever before. I understand that there is something that you are doing different this year. Tell us about your work with the jails. You know, they dictate to us what they want for us to report to them. But locally, we do a few other things to kind of help us get a handle on what the picture looks like San Diego. So this year, happened was we partnered with the sheriff department. The night of the count, or shelters typically are counting those that are in bed, what the sheriff's department is doing in the county jails is they taken a census of the number of people in custody and they are as I speak interviewing one out of every four just like if they would of been on the street and the big question that we are asking is if you had not been in custody which you have been homeless? And that is a critical question for us because you want to know whether that have impacted the number because technically in the definitions, we cannot count them as homeless because they were not unsheltered the night of the count. And that of course hides that -- now counting the homeless especially young people who are homeless could be a big challenge because they are not always the most visible. What did you do this you to get a more accurate picture of that homeless population? In as you've mentioned that As you mentioned -- As you mentioned, it's hard to get a number on homeless youth. They will hide, they are not visible during those normal hours of the count. They are sleeping in someone's patio. That type of thing. So the youth homeless service providers having gauged formally homeless -- homeless youth and are getting into trying to attract the youth that come in and be counted. So we will see that effort starting today through the end of the first February. Remind us why this count is so important. It's really important to San Diego because San Diego competes for federal funding annually. And applications get submitted. That's on the homeless on behalf of homeless service providers regionwide. And it helps to bring in an approximate $18 million annually. And this is competitive funding that helps with programs that are renewing trying to renew their products that provide services for the homeless. You said that anecdotally some of the counters today told you that they did see more people in tents and cars. The downtown San Diego partnership to the count of more than 1000 individuals sleeping on the streets in downtown San Diego. That is double from last year. The regional continuum of care accounts just recently merged with the regional task force on the homeless, your agency. What does this mean for the region's effort to combat homelessness? What this means is it's going to help us with more efficiency. Because all things homeless will be under one roof. It simply relates to funding for time count analytics. Order management, all of those kinds of administrative things and it's also going to help us to be able to better coordinate the activities that need to happen. Since this count may tell us that homelessness has gone up, who is working on a plan to reduce that? That's an excellent question. So the new regional task force on the homeless is now the policy table for this. And, we are just now embarking in a community planning process. That will be quite expensive, and we are bringing in a national consultant to help us. We will develop strategies and actionable items. Those of be based on her numbers that -- those will be based on our numbers that will help us take actions to eliminate or reduce veteran, youth, family, and chronic homelessness. So who is making the policy decisions? The new regional task force on the homeless and we hope that the development of a community plan with specific actions steps will help us reduce the number. Can you give us an example of a specific action that might be part of this planet? One of the changes for example as we are rolling out a common assessment tool are all homeless persons are assessed for their vulnerability using the same tools across the county. You know operationalizing these things takes time but that's one of the things that comes to mind. And, that's the plan that we typically report those numbers, those numbers that meet that tight definition of homeless. We typically report the first week of April. And, we will release our findings to the community and subsequently in the report. I have been speaking with Dolores Diaz. And, we have had a long day.

Hundreds of volunteers are scheduled to fan out around San Diego County Friday to help officials get a handle on the extent of homelessness in the region.

RELATED: Volunteers, Donations Needed for Project Homeless Connect, Homeless Count

They plan to walk downtown sidewalks, check shelters, look under freeway overpasses and scour canyons during the early morning hours in the Point-in- Time Count organized by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.

While the problem appears to have grown over the past six months or so, that may or may not be changing.

At Project Homeless Connect, an annual one-day resource fair conducted Wednesday by the San Diego Housing Commission to benefit people living on the streets, the number of attendees was actually less than last year — barely 1,000 compared to more than 1,200. Organizers said at a news conference last week that they expected as many as 1,500.

RELATED: Golden Hall Transformed Into A One-Stop-Shop Of Resources For The Homeless

Also, a monthly count by the Downtown San Diego Partnership Thursday was down 38 percent from December. The area checked by staff is limited, however, and the result could have been impacted by cold temperatures and recent rains, according to the organization.

The countywide homeless count helps quantify the scope of the problem and determines the amount of federal and state funding that comes to area governments and nonprofits.

Last year, 8,692 homeless were counted, with more than 4,900 of them unsheltered. While the overall total was a hair lower than the year before, the number living on the streets was up nearly 19 percent.

According to the task force, the San Diego area has the fourth-highest population of homeless, but ranks only 22nd in funding. Last year, local officials said federal officials planned to change the formula in order to provide San Diego with more funding.

Several politicians plan to gather at Golden Hall to participate in the count, among them Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, county Supervisor Greg Cox, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council members David Alvarez, Scott Sherman and Chris Ward.

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