San Bernardino County’s homeless count decreases slightly

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Homelessness in San Bernardino County has stabilized since last year, although the population of unaccompanied homeless women is on the rise, a recent county-wide effort shows.

The San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership and Interagency Council on Homelessness released preliminary findings from the 2017 annual San Bernardino County Point-in-Time count, a survey designed to pinpoint the number of homeless on a given day during the last 10 days of January.

According to the report, San Bernardino County communities on Jan. 26, identified 1,866 homeless people who were staying in a shelter, transitional housing, or unsheltered — a decrease of 21 people or 1.1 percent from the 2016 count. Of the 1,866 persons counted, 1,179 or 63.5 percent were unsheltered, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 687 persons or 37 percent were sheltered. These 687 individuals were identified in shelters, or as recipients of motel vouchers, in transitional housing programs, or in a Safe Haven program.

“While communities across Southern California are seeing increases, some dramatic, we’ve stabilized our numbers here and are currently seeing continued reductions in veteran and chronic homelessness across the county,” said ICH Chair and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, in the release.

“What is disheartening is the increasing population of unaccompanied homeless women. The sub-population far exceeds others including homeless youth and veterans. Even more devastating, a significant portion of the unaccompanied homeless women sub-population are chronically homeless,” Gonzales said.

The count identified 284 unaccompanied homeless women on the streets or in shelters, and more than a third of them were found to be chronically homeless, the report states.

“This means that we must actively prioritize this population and lay out the groundwork to remedy their plight,” said Gonzales.

“Ending homelessness involves a comprehensive, community-wide effort; every community needs to do its part. But, we must first take into account everyone who makes up our communities. Great strides have been made to address the homelessness among the veteran subpopulation. Over the past 20 months, 781 homeless veterans have been housed. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done as we have seen an average of anywhere between 40 and 45 new homeless veterans enter into the system every month.” she added.

Out of 111 self-identified veterans in the count, 40 percent indicated that they were homeless for the first time in their life.

“Permanent supportive housing such as the proposed Liberty Lane affordable housing project for homeless veterans in Redlands, help meet the needs of homeless persons with disabling conditions, be it veterans, women, or youth,” said Gonzales.

“With thousands on the Housing Authority’s waiting list and approximately 109,000 San Bernardino County households living below poverty level, many are at-risk of becoming homeless. Our cities need to take action and consider this when updating the housing element of their general plans. At any time a neighbor or friend can become homeless. We must be ready to assist them and help them get back on their feet,” Gonzales said.

SBCHP and ICH conduct the annual counts to provide data for Continuum of Care planning, trends, and local changes, and as a research tool to aid in understanding need.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also requires an annual count of sheltered and unsheltered individuals in each Continuum of Care receiving federal funding to aid the homeless.

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