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San Diego's Point-in-Time count tracks the sheltered and unsheltered

Undated file photo of volunteers speaking with unsheltered residents as part of the annual homeless Point in Time count.
Courtesy of Downtown San Diego Partnership
Volunteers speak with unsheltered residents part of the annual homeless point in time count. Feb. 24, 2022.

San Diego is getting a snapshot of homelessness for the first time in two years.

The region's annual Point in Time count was held Thursday morning.

In Spring Valley, teams met around 4 a.m., well before the sun came up. Temperatures were around a frigid 37 degrees.


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"It’s just nice to know where people are experiencing homelessness and any data we can get on that is great," said Brian Gruters, associate director for outreach at PATH San Diego, an advocacy group aimed at helping those who are experiencing homelessness.

Unlike downtown or near the beaches, East County is more spread out, so teams have to drive around to find people. That is where on-the-ground knowledge comes in handy.

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Outreach specialist Brice Michalek works in Spring Valley with unsheltered residents everyday.


"Having a little bit more experience in the area can help volunteers understand this area," Michalek said. He also participated in Thursday morning's count which ended around 8 a.m.

Federal and state homeless funding are tied to the number of people on the streets and in shelters. Counting teams spread out across the county.

Volunteers asked basic questions about age and how long people have been without shelter. Some are also trying to connect people to help, but many basic services like shelters are far away in downtown San Diego.

"We’re here in the city of San Diego and we appreciate the partnerships with the council members and the mayor — but all the cities when you are ready to do this, the county will be there to be your partner and as you identify a location we'll step up" said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher during a news conference shortly after the count ended Thursday. "Provide those needed services when we get there."

San Diego's Point-in-Time count tracks the sheltered and unsheltered

In Spring Valley, Gruters talked with one man who said he is interested in shelter, but does not want to leave his hometown.

"I think for someone like that the idea to ask them to move a shelter in downtown is like asking them to move to Iowa — he doesn't want to go there," Gruters said.

Outreach specialists said not everyone is the same and some people without housing have different needs than others.

"We have some guys that have been out here for a long time. They really don't ask for anything," Michalek said. "Then you have guys that are new due to COVID and the economic situation — they will ask for different services like rent assistance or transportation."

The count did not happen last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 just over 7,600 people were found to be without homes with about half of them on the street. Data from the count helps prioritize resources, but advocates said action needs to be taken.

"We need to support more housing," Gruters said. "Any chance we get."

While there is a lot of focus on this count, this type of outreach work is done daily across San Diego County. The Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) organizes the annual event.

"It is a minimum count," said RTFH CEO Tamera Kohler. "We know we’re not going to get everybody. People are in various locations experiencing homelessness trying to survive and shelter and connect to a system that really needs to learn more about them to serve them, to house them."

  • Volunteers were out in chilly temperatures Thursday morning for the point in time count, an annual event that counts how many people are experiencing homelessness in San Diego County.
  • As the people in the U.S. woke up to the news that Russia was invading Ukraine, many in San Diego’s Ukrainian community began worrying about their relatives and the fate of their native land. Plus, this year’s “Point In Time” homeless count began Thursday and could provide more insight on how many more people became homeless during the pandemic.