REGION — Hundreds of volunteers are set to fan out across San Diego County early this morning to conduct a federally required, one-night “snapshot” of the region’s homeless population.
The 2024 WeAllCount Point-in-Time Count, run by the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, is set to begin at 4 a.m. Thursday at dozens of sites throughout the county to find an accurate accounting of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the region.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development uses the data to determine how to distribute federal homeless relief funding.
In 2023, the count found 10,264 individuals experiencing homelessness across the region — an increase of 14% over the previous year. That number included 5,171 unsheltered San Diegans, with 5,093 individuals in shelters and transitional housing.
The challenge of finding every unsheltered person in a car, encampment or under a bridge is impossible, but even with people likely missed in the annual counts, the number of people in San Diego County falling into homelessness continues to outpace those exiting into housing, RTFH leaders said.
According to the RTFH, on average, between September 2022 and October 2023, 10 people found housing for every 16 who experienced homelessness for the first time. During the prior 12 months — September 2021 to October 2022 — 10 people found housing for every 13 who experienced homelessness for the first time.
“These numbers are sobering but present a case for optimism,” Tamara Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, said last year when the results of the Point-in-Time Count were published.
“The vast majority of exits from homelessness are via rental by client, either with or without a subsidy, rather than permanent supportive housing. If we get some stabilizing in rent prices and availability, it will help, but long-term success will only come with more homes for people of all income levels; then, we’ve got a real chance to turn things around.”
Among the sobering data in last year’s count, the RTFH found some glimmers of hope. Families experiencing unsheltered homelessness decreased by 25%. Additionally, there was a more significant increase in the sheltered population of transitional-age youth than the unsheltered population.
Not every city in the county saw an increase. Carlsbad reported a 13% decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness.
Additional data points included finding that 29% of people living on the streets were women and that people 55 or older made up 29% of the region’s unsheltered population, with 46% of them experiencing homelessness for the first time.
The San Diego City Council passed an “Unsafe Camping Ordinance” in 2023, prohibiting tent encampments in all public spaces throughout the city if shelter beds are available. It also bans tent encampments at all times in certain sensitive areas, such as parks, canyons, and near schools, transit stations, and homeless shelters, regardless of shelter capacity.