The Community Resource Center in Encinitas is preparing to host volunteers who will take part in this year’s homeless count, scheduled Jan. 23 at 4 a.m.
“We are reaching out into our network of volunteers,” said John Van Cleef, the center’s executive director.
He said the Community Resource Center hosted 65 volunteers for last year’s count, and have about 15 who signed up so far.
The 2019 homeless count results showed a point-in-time homeless population of 8,102 throughout San Diego County, 4,476 of whom were unsheltered. The total represented a 5.5% decrease from the 2018 count.
The city of San Diego, at 5,082, had nearly two-thirds of the county’s homeless population. The count tallied 764 in the North County coastal area, including 120 in a subregion that included Encinitas, Del Mar and Solana Beach.
Volunteers who participate in the annual count, organized by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, are broken into small groups that either walk or drive around a series of census tracts, which are small geographical subdivisions, and keep a tally of all the homeless individuals they see.
Volunteers who will gather at the Community Resource Center will be responsible for covering a total of 75 census tracts spanning Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe.
The count helps each region advocate for the necessary state and federal funding to address homelessness. California’s homeless population of approximately 130,000 represents about one-fourth of the total number of homeless people in the U.S.
Last year’s count also showed that 10% of the county’s homeless population are veterans, 36% said they have a physical disability and 12% are younger than 24.
Van Cleef also mentioned a Homeless Action Plan approved by the Encinitas City Council last fall to expand homeless outreach and services. He said the homeless count often overlooks an “invisible” segment of the homeless population, which includes people who may be living in their cars or sleeping at their workplace.
“There are many people who are living day-to-day in situations they don’t talk about,” he said, adding that the profiles of many local people who are homeless go beyond the “stereotypical picture of an individual who is disheveled and dirty.”
The city of Encinitas is also considering opening a parking lot where people who are living in their cars can spend the night. The proposal will be discussed at an open forum Jan. 14, with a City Council vote expected later in the month.
For more information about this year’s homeless count, including volunteer opportunities, visit rtfhsd.org.