Report says county has nation's fourth-largest homeless populaton

A new federal report on homelessness in America offers a snapshot of how San Diego County is doing compared with other regions.

With 9,160 homeless people, the county has the fourth-largest population of any region in the nation, trailing only New York City (76,501), Los Angeles County (55,188) and Seattle/King County (11,643).

The report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also listed San Diego County — the fifth largest in the country — among the biggest in several categories:

--Third in the number of homeless veterans, with 1,067.

--Fourth in the number of homeless individuals (as opposed to those in families), 7,571.

--Fourth in the percentage of people in homeless families who are unsheltered, 18.4 percent.

--Fifth in the percentage of homeless individuals who are unsheltered, 61.6 percent.

--Fifth in the number of chronically homeless, 2,088.

--Seventh in the number of unaccompanied youth (younger than 25 living alone), 1,160.

--Tenth in the number of people in homeless families, 1,589.

The numbers come from an annual report to Congress, released Wednesday, that is based on HUD-mandated “point in time” counts done every January in 3,000 cities and counties across America. Communities use the report while deciding how to allocate money and resources to combat homelessness.

Nationwide, the homeless population went up 0.7 percent, to 553,742. It’s the first year-over-year increase since 2010, and it means that for every 10,000 people in the nation, 17 are homeless, according to HUD.

While 30 states and the District of Columbia saw decreases in their homeless numbers, 20 saw increases, including California, up 13.7 percent to 134,278. For every 10,000 people in California, 34 are homeless.

In San Diego, the homeless population increased 5 percent.

“In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets.”

The increases are due largely to spikes in the number of unsheltered homeless, according to the report. That’s especially true on the West Coast.

Nationwide, about 35 percent of the homeless are living in tents, cars and on the street. In San Diego, it’s 61.6 percent.

California has almost half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless. The top four regions in the country with the highest percentage of unsheltered are in the state: Fresno/Madera (75.8 percent), Los Angeles (74.7), San Jose/Santa Clara (73.7) and Oakland/Alameda (68.6).

Overall, 68.2 percent of the homeless in California are unsheltered, the highest rate of any state. New York, by contrast, has almost 95 percent of its homeless living in shelters.

Nationwide, the number of homeless military veterans went up 1.5 percent last year, and that group now makes up 9.1 percent of the total homeless population, according to the report. About 38 percent of them are unsheltered.

In San Diego, the number of homeless veterans went down about 10 percent and now is 12 percent of the total homeless population. Forty-three percent are unsheltered.

The veterans’ numbers for California: Up 19.4 percent, to 8.5 percent of the total homeless population, with 66.7 percent unsheltered.

john.wilkens@sduniontribune.com

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