SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego's Regional Task Force on Homelessness began its Department of Housing and Urban Development-mandated "point-in-time'' count of people experiencing homelessness throughout the county early Thursday morning.
More than 1,400 people walked throughout the city to take a yearly survey of how many people are in shelters and on the streets. About 100 of those volunteers, including elected and public officials, business owners and community leaders gathered at Civic Plaza to assist with the downtown count and connect with people experiencing homelessness.
Councilmember Stephen Whitburn highlighted the importance of this effort to making a difference for San Diego's unhoused.
"Make no mistake, what we saw this morning is a humanitarian crisis. There are so many people out there on our sidewalks in their 70s without a pair of socks on shoes on their feet-- we have to solve widespread homelessness that we have in San Diego today," Whitburn said.
CBS 8 spoke with Mayor Todd Gloria who said "this critical data leads to federal funding for resources." This is the first count in over two years due to the pandemic, which has really highlighted the crisis.
Each volunteer had a conversation with someone experiencing homelessness, asking them a series of questions--one being, where do people sleep at night?
The data found that out of 1,600 people surveyed, 753 are sleeping on the sidewalk. The survey also found 85% of people become homeless in San Diego. The data was broken down by gender and race, showing 20% of unsheltered people identified as females.
Through the data that was collected, leaders are hoping to expand shelter capacity and create safe housing villages; while providing more mental health professionals for aid.
Wednesday night was one of the coldest nights of the season and local shelters opened up more space for people living on the streets. The temperatures were in the 30s throughout much of San Diego County.
Shelters in San Diego opened their doors for more people to keep them from being exposed to the bone-chilling temperatures.
“These are very unusual weather patterns that we’ve been having recently and it’s cold and blustery. The wind is just blowing and that’s extremely challenging for those who are on the streets,” said Deacon Jim Vargas, President and CEO of Father Joe’s Village in San Diego.
On Wednesday, the San Diego Housing Commission issued an inclement weather shelter alert, prompting local shelters to provide additional beds and meals for those experiencing homelessness. Father Joe’s Village is one of the shelters responding to that alert, serving 55 additional people.
“We have these cots that we put out in one of our dining rooms, basically. It’s socially distanced. It’s also very dry and warm and a great place to be for the night,” Vargas said.
WATCH RELATED: Wind and rain for parts of San Diego County, with fresh snow for the higher elevations (February 2022)