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Carlsbad sees a 20% decrease in homelessness, bucking regional trend

While the San Diego region’s homeless population rose by at least 10 % according to the latest Point-in-Time Count. One North County city is reporting a decrease of nearly 20%. North County Reporter Alexander Nguyen takes us to Carlsbad to see what the city is doing right.

San Diego County saw at least a 10% increase in people experiencing homelessness, according to the latest Point-in-Time Count released last week. Carlsbad, however, saw roughly a 20% decrease.

The result is noticeable. Walking around the seaside city, there seem to be fewer people experiencing homelessness. That much is apparent to Carlsbad resident Margo Sappington. She's lived in the city for more than 30 years.

Sappington walks around Carlsbad Village nearly every day, and would strike up conversations with people experiencing homelessness that she meets.

"There are some people that I used to see a lot. ... same people that I don't see that much anymore," she said. "Not the same group anyway."

She credits the city's effort to get people into housing for the decrease.

"It seems like they are doing things to help," she said.

The latest Point-in-Time Count happened in February and the results were released last Thursday. According to the count, Carlsbad's homeless population was 118 in February. In 2020, the count was 148 — that's roughly a 20% decrease. The count was not conducted in 2021 because of the pandemic.

While the data shows Carlsbad bucking the regional trend with a decrease in homelessness, there are some caveats. Carlsbad has 1.75% of the region's homeless population, and the north coastal region accounts for 9% of the population. The city of San Diego has 57% of the region's homeless population.

Also, the Point-in-Time Count is just a snapshot of that particular day in February. There are a number of things that could affect the count, such as weather and the availability of shelter beds. Plus, it only happens once a year.

Point-in-Time Count volunteer Jan Neff-Sinclair said it was especially cold the day of the count. That could have skewed the numbers.

"It was 37 degrees that night," she said. "So a lot of places where you would go and count homeless people, they weren't there."

She said people could have found places indoors to sleep that night.

Still, Carlsbad's Housing & Homeless Services Department director Mandy Mills said the data provides valuable insights, such as whether to shift resources to other programs or make any adjustments or improvements.

"We take that piece of data as well as a lot of other data points to tell us how we're going against the goal," she said.

In 2017, Carlsbad developed a Homeless Response Plan. Last July, the city embarked on a five-year initiative to reduce homelessness. So far, it seems to be working.

"In the first two quarters, I think we had permanently housed 31 homeless individuals into permanent housing," Mills said.

The third quarter's data will be released to the City Council in June.