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Homelessness is up throughout San Diego County, but not by as much as you might think

Blake Nelson, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO — The number of people living outside or in vehicles rose in Escondido, Encinitas and El Cajon.

That population also increased in Vista and Chula Vista and the city of San Diego.

Yet, while more than 10,000 homeless people were again tallied countywide in January, the highest total in more than a decade at least, the overall rise was less pronounced than in recent years.

"What we're starting to see is maybe a high-water mark," Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, said in an interview. "Now, maybe we can right size our system."

The task force's annual point-in-time count, the results of which were released Wednesday, found at least 10,605 individuals countywide without a steady roof near the start of the year.

That was a slight increase from 2023, although the share without a bed rose significantly: More than 6,100 people were tallied as unsheltered, an 18 percent rise year-over-year.


That may be partially due to some new homelessness initiatives not qualifying as "shelter," such as safe parking lots where people can sleep in cars. The same goes for San Diego's two designated camping areas near Balboa Park, known as safe sleeping sites, which recently held more than 470 people.

Both approaches can come with security and support services, but lack roofs, walls and traditional beds.

The number of homeless people who did have a bed decreased by almost 600. Fewer than 4,500 were counted in places like the East County Transitional Living Center, Father Joe's Villages or private hotels.

It's not that shelters now have open spots. Instead, Kohler attributed that drop to the end of some pandemic-era aid, mainly from the federal government, which had paid for hotel rooms.


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