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Homelessness in San Diego County has now risen every month for 2 straight years

Blake Nelson, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

One evening last September, Patrick Gilligan drove to a rest area north of Oceanside.

He parked his Jeep, lowered the back seat, spread out a sleeping bag and laid down.

Gilligan mentally replayed his last few decades. There had been childhood abuse, service in the U.S. Marine Corps., a divorce and a layoff and countless other decisions, big and small, that had somehow led him to having no bed of his own.

In that moment, Gilligan became part of a countywide trend that has remade public policy, dominated elections and cost millions upon millions of dollars.

March was the 24th consecutive month the number of homeless residents connected to housing was eclipsed by the number of people who lost a place to stay for the first time, according to a new report from the Regional Task Force on Homelessness.

There were 1,226 people housed, while 1,337 became newly homeless.


The picture is hardly better further back. Since October 2021, when the task force began releasing this data, there have been just two months when the crisis didn't grow. Even then, the gains were minor: Only nine more people got housing than those who lost a steady roof in March 2022.

"There's just not enough housing at a price point that people can afford," said Jennifer Nations, managing director of the Homelessness Hub research lab at UC San Diego. "This is especially evident in the numbers of first-time homeless," she added, many of whom are older adults.

A growing body of research has found that areas with high costs of living tend to have more people on the street, and the city of San Diego recently logged some of the highest rents and the biggest jump in home prices nationwide.

Combine that with addiction and mental health struggles — a survey last year found around a fifth of those without shelter had a substance use disorder and more than a quarter reported serious mental health diagnoses — and the ripple effects are profound.


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