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Homeless count numbers released

COAST CITIES — The San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless has released its annual “snapshot” of homelessness in the region to provide baseline data for federal funding and local services. 

Released on April 16, the report summarizes a point-in-time count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals conducted on Jan. 25 this year by volunteers countywide.

The report is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide an estimate of homeless people in the region and to establish a basis for funding.

While the count offers a general approximation of homeless individuals, organizers caution against drawing conclusions about the county’s homeless population based on the information, which is subject to any number of variables and limited by available resources.

“There’s more (homeless people) than can be counted,” said Filipa Rior, senior director of client services for Community Resource Center, a nonprofit social service agency based in Encinitas. Rior helped facilitate this year’s count in North County.

For the single-day count, volunteers walked or drove around the region and counted the homeless individuals they saw and tallied the numbers staying in shelters.

Rior explained that with limited volunteers, it is impossible to find every homeless person in an area as large as North County. The count is especially difficult locally because a large number of homeless individuals live in canyons or open space areas, and volunteers are unable to walk through these areas.

Furthermore rain on the day of the count made it more difficult for volunteers to spot homeless individuals, Rior said.

Dania Brett, a project analyst for the Regional Task Force, said there is no way of accounting for all of the factors that could have influenced this year’s count since it is only conducted on one day out of the entire year.

She also noted that the methods of the count do change from year to year, making it difficult to spot trends across the years as well. This year, the count’s estimates for how many individuals reside in cars or tents changed.

As such Brett said it is best to view the count as an annual “snapshot” of homelessness in San Diego.

Rior said that the count is still valuable if its limitations are considered. “I think it’s a necessary count that needs to be done, even though it’s not 100 percent accurate,” she said.

Rior said the count’s estimates are helpful for identifying the homeless services needed in North County. In particular, she said the region is in need of year round shelters as well as more low-income housing and residences designed for single-occupants.

This year, Task Force volunteers counted 747 homeless individuals in coastal North County, a little more than 8 percent of the total 8,900 homeless people counted in San Diego County. The vast majority of coastal North County’s homeless individuals live in Oceanside, according to the report.