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Annual Homeless Count Shows 6 Percent Drop

People stand near homeless encampments on 17th Street in San Diego's East Village,  January 23, 2017.
Susan Murphy
People stand near homeless encampments on 17th Street in San Diego's East Village, January 23, 2017.
Annual Homeless Count Shows 6 Percent Drop
Annual Homeless Count Shows 6 Percent Drop GUEST: Kim Mitchell, president and CEO, Veterans Village of San Diego

>> San Diego officials say the opening of 3 downtown tenant shelters is largely responsible for the drop in unsheltered homeless in this year's point in time homeless count. Annual regional count of people living in shelters, or on the street is sick -- is taken in January. The results were released on Thursday. Overall the results saw a drop in homeless people countywide and 11% in decrease in people living unsheltered. But 1 is a price increase in the report concerned homeless veterans. Overall their numbers were up 24% from last year, the number of unsheltered veterans jumping 45%. Joining me is Kim Mitchell, President and CEO of veterans Village of San Diego. Kim welcome to the program. >> Thank you so much, it's great to be back. >> Were you surprised at these numbers? >> It is disheartening to hear that certainly the number of homeless veterans has increased, but I believe, there is a lot of efforts going on here in San Diego, working in conjunction with the mayor's office, the San Diego housing commission, as well as the other service providers. There is certainly a big effort to bring in not only the homeless San Diego residents but the veterans of the street as well and provide them the services and resources that the -- that they need, and help them and assist them in transition to permanent supportive housing. >> Last year San Diego's Mayor housing our heroes program actually housed 1000 veterans, and yet as I have said, veteran homelessness went up. I'm wondering could be more veterans are coming into homelessness? then that are going out homelessness? >> I believe that's part of it, I know there's a large number every year of service members that transition out of the military, and the San Diego being the great place to live that it is because of the weather, there's a lot of veterans that would love to stay here in the San Diego area. Unfortunately, there's a lack of affordable housing, and with the increased cost of rent and increased cost of the housing that is available, many of the veterans just cannot afford what the paycheck that they're earning to be able to afford to live here. >> The count I said also showed unsheltered veterans going up 45% what are the specific challenges in getting veterans to go into shelters? >> Right now, our shelter which has, 200 bunks is full. Wrap hundred % capacity. We opened the last part of December, so the point in time count occurred the last week of January as I recall, and it took us several months for the veterans to come in and to fill the shelter. I think it was getting the word out, and encouraging them to want to come into the shelter because many of them were very comfortable with maybe where they were, and the word has gotten out now and they understand that the services that are provided, many of them do not have a lot of income coming in so they are unsure of what demands are going to be placed on them, if they move into an apartment and if they are making zero income, that is still going to cost money to live even with assistance. And permanent support -- supportive housing. >> To see the needs of our hammer -- homeless veterans have evolved over the past several years? >> I believe the needs have evolved yes. Unfortunately, there is a wide variety of drugs that are available, that seems to be more so than in previous years. As well as the number of veterans that seem to be addicted to alcohol, and other substances like that. The older generation of veterans our Vietnam veterans and others, as they grow older, the challenges of finding employment and the challenges of getting them off the street are increasing. >> Or is a point in time homeless count influence the work you do at veterans Village? well, it gives us a good idea of data. And that always helps us with regards to where are the folks? are they sheltered? unsheltered? what are the efforts that we are doing and is it making a difference? because as I mentioned earlier and because of our shelter opening up the last part of December I believe, come next year's point in time count we will definitely see a decrease because of all the efforts that are happening here in San Diego with regards to the focus of bringing in more veterans, and doing the very focused effort on getting them off the streets and providing them treatment if they want it and providing them housing if they want that. That's a great thing about the system that is in place, is that veterans are given a choice of what it is they want, and how do they want and what services do they need and desire to be successful in transitioning into permanent supportive housing. >> And you say that's what veterans Village offers? >> Yes, yes. As you may know, we do offer the treatment program but we also offer, deferent desk -- different bridge programs and one is found -- founded by the VA and one is found -- founded by the city. >> I've been speaking with Kim Mitchell, President and CEO of veterans Village. Thank you so much. >> Thank you so much for having me.

An annual one-night count found 8,576 homeless individuals in San Diego County, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless announced Thursday.

That's a 6 percent decrease from the 2017 total and a 9 percent decrease since 2011, but county Supervisor Ron Roberts, who chairs the task force, said it's not yet time to celebrate.

"Seeing the overall number decline was a positive reversal, but there are far too many swings in data to declare a trend or to not see other areas where we need to increase our focus," he said.

"We continue to face many challenges, highlighted by a lack of new housing, a condition that squeezes hardest those with the fewest resources. The only marginal decrease in the number of chronic homeless is among my biggest concerns."

RELATED: San Diego Homelessness Advisor Reflects On Challenging Year

The federally mandated snapshot count took place Jan. 26. The count helps communities, service providers and policy makers understand homelessness hot spots and challenges. It's also critical to securing about $20 million in federal funding for housing and services, according to the task force.

After being in decline for several years, homelessness among military veterans rose 24 percent, with 1,312 counted as opposed to 1,054 a year earlier.

Overall, the count identified 4,990 unsheltered homeless individuals in the county, an 11.2 percent decrease from the 5,621 counted in 2017. The number of homeless individuals in shelters was 3,596, a 2.8 percent increase from the 3,495 counted in 2017. The number of hand-built structures or tents, meanwhile, decreased 24 percent from 937 to 716, with downtown numbers falling sharpest.

"This is a one-day snapshot that is a positive indication that we are getting the most vulnerable, unsheltered San Diegans off the street," said San Diego Councilman Chris Ward, who is vice chairman of the task force.

"Finding permanent housing remains our ultimate goal and we need a renewed focus on permanent units to truly create a pipeline that moves people from our streets, to our shelter, connects them with necessary services and ultimately results in a housing accommodation that meets their needs."

Annual Homeless Count Shows 6 Percent Drop

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