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San Diego mayor reports drop in city's homeless, count used to direct COVID-19 resources across county

This year's RTFH count found 4,887 individuals in total experiencing homelessness in the city of San Diego; the total for San Diego County was 7,619.
Credit: KFMB


A new report shows the number of unsheltered homeless individuals in the City of San Diego dropped by 12% in 2020, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless announced Tuesday.    

This year’s RTFH count which started Jan. 23 found approximately 2,283 individuals were unsheltered compared to the 2,600 people counted last year. In total, 4,887 individuals were experiencing homelessness in San Diego according to the 2020 count, a 4% reduction when compared to the 5,082 individuals counted in 2019.  

The latest figures indicate a 5% increase in the number of people in shelters and transitional housing. Faulconer calls that “a positive sign that indicates more are being connected to supportive services that help to end the cycle of homelessness.”  

Mayor Faulconer was joined at a briefing Tuesday by San Diego City Councilmember and RTFH Chair Chris Ward and RTFH CEO Tamera Kohler to give details on the reported downward trend in homelessness in the region.

The City of San Diego has taken steps in response to the coronavirus pandemic to reduce homelessness during the crisis, according to the mayor, including enacting a temporary eviction moratorium and using the San Diego Convention Center to shelter hundreds of individuals. Faulconer said one of the core missions of “Operation Shelter to Home” at the convention center is to find permanent housing for individuals. 

"Since the count and in response to COVID-19, hundreds more who were living on the streets have found shelter in the San Diego Convention Center and we enacted an eviction moratorium to help prevent folks from losing their home in the first place," San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said. "We will keep working day and night to overcome this pandemic and help even more people find shelter and housing in the process." 

The annual RTFH homeless count records the number of individuals experiencing homelessness over three nights including those living on streets and in other outdoor areas. It also takes a count of those currently in shelters.  

The event, also known as WeAllCount, had volunteers and outreach workers interview unsheltered individuals using the mobile Counting Us application and geographical information system technology. The introduction of the system this year allowed the task force to analyze data in real-time and distribute resources in the community. 

San Diego County numbers

According to the report, the RTFH found that 7,619 homeless San Diegans live in the county, and those numbers are being used to best direct resources during the coronavirus pandemic, the organization said. 

Task force officials said they have begun using this data to aid in the COVID-19 response and will continue to use it to advance regional best practices. 

"The RTFH's person-centered approach to the annual point in time count has given the San Diego region the tools and information to inform all aspects of addressing homelessness," said San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward, chair of the task force. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, these best- practices and new technology have delivered more accurate, actionable data to Public Health Officials and have allowed outreach workers to specifically target at-risk homeless individuals for life-saving services. This data will continue to be analyzed in our ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19." 

The point-in-time count has been used in the past to develop San Diego's Community Action Plan on Homelessness and implementation of best practices. This data has also helped to determine the placement of several hand washing stations and the number of high-risk unsheltered individuals in need of additional services.  
"The information gathered during this annual count is critical in our fight to tackle homelessness in San Diego County," said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, vice chair of the task force. "With this data we can secure more funding to support our homeless outreach strategies and deliver critical mental health, substance abuse and housing services to people living in our region without shelter." 
According to this year's count, there are approximately 3,971 unsheltered individuals and 3,648 sheltered but homeless throughout the county - making for 7,619 individuals total. Out of the total unsheltered population, 8% are veterans, 17% are chronically homeless and 8% are unsheltered youth. 

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