A monthly number of homeless people living without shelter in downtown San Diego hit a record high of 1,609 in August, reports the Downtown San Diego Partnership. This is the highest number in 10 years that the organization has been counting.
The downtown homeless population has been around 1,400 since January, and 2022 already has the highest average monthly count of any year since its start in 2012, when the average was 582.
Counts are conducted on the last Thursday of each month between midnight and 5 a.m. by the partnership, a nonprofit that describes itself as an advocate for downtown’s economic prosperity and cultural vitality.
“The need downtown is great and you don’t have to read this monthly report to know it’s true,” Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, said in a statement. Press. “Each week we work directly with homeless clients to learn about their needs and we hear about the experiences of residents, business owners and our workforce and the suffering they witness on our streets and our sidewalks.
The partnership called for increased accommodation capacity, more non-collective accommodation options and increased awareness of the homeless.
“This is absolutely heartbreaking and unacceptable,” Lucky Duck Foundation executive director Drew Moser said in an email. “These numbers represent an all-time high in the 10 years the Downtown Partnership has conducted a monthly homelessness count. This is further evidence of the urgent need to add readily available beds and other essential services and strategies to help people find a bright and immediate way off the street.
“As we remain ready and committed to supporting high-impact, cost-effective and tangible programs, we call on our elected leaders to do the same,” Moser added.
The foundation pushed city officials to open more shelters and funded one of three large tents the city of San Diego used as shelters. San Diego Veterans Village began operating a shelter in the Lucky Duck tent in late 2017, but discontinued its program in 2020.
The tent was donated to Chula Vista in May, but city officials changed direction later that year and returned the tent, which has since been moved behind the County Health and Human Services Complex and the San Diego County Psychiatric Hospital on Rosecrans Street.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the 125-bed bridge shelter was held in May, with an expectation for it to open in July. The shelter has still not opened.
The count covers several areas of downtown San Diego, and the largest homeless population in August was found in East Village. About 790 people were on the sidewalks, vehicles and tents. In the southeast section of East Village, which includes large encampments along Imperial Avenue and Commercial Street, 492 people were counted.
The partnership has 1.75 people for each tent and 2.03 people for each vehicle.
The count methodology has changed several times over the years and the enumerated area has expanded in April 2021.
Adding an extra area to the tally increased the total, but not enough to account for the new record. If the 324 people counted in the region in August were not included, the monthly tally would still be the highest on record under the partnership’s current methodology.
An annual homeless count conducted by the Regional Homelessness Task Force in February found that 4,106 people were homeless throughout the county, including 2,494 in the city of San Diego. Including people in shelters, the county’s total homeless population was 8,427, a 10% increase from the last previous count of 2020.
“This increase is not a surprise based on the data we collect every day and what outreach teams are seeing and reporting,” said Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Homelessness Task Force. “We’re seeing too many first-time homeless people and way too many later, too many families, and way too many people with multiple health needs.”
Kohler said increases in the cost of living and rents are affecting more people living paycheck to paycheck, and the task force is asking for an unprecedented amount of federal and state funding to deal with the people living without shelter.
Homeless attorney Michael McConnell said he’s seeing more and more people living homeless, and not just in downtown San Diego.
“Balboa Park, Barrio Logan, Chicano Park, Little Italy,” he said. “It’s just amazing. “. And I’ve never met so many new people. It’s every day. I think it’s just that more and more people are becoming homeless because of inflation, housing costs , just about everything.”
Dave Rolland, deputy communications director for San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, said the record number should be taken with a grain of salt because getting an accurate number is extremely difficult.
“What is not disputed, however, is that homelessness continues to be an extremely difficult challenge, not just in San Diego, but throughout California and across the country,” he said. written in an email. “Addressing homelessness continues to be Mayor Gloria’s top priority, and since taking office he has pursued a comprehensive strategy focused on raising street awareness, expanding shelter options and building more affordable housing.
Shelter capacity has increased by around 25% under Gloria, Rolland said, adding that the new shelter in the Midway district is expected to open soon.