About 40 volunteers met at the Community Resource Center in Encinitas, one of many deployment sites throughout the county, early Jan. 23 to participate in the annual homeless count.
“It is helpful, even though it’s an imperfect measurement,” said John Van Cleef, CEO of the center, which addresses homelessness, food insecurity, domestic violence and other issues throughout North County.
An additional “invisible” homeless population, comprising those who live in their cars or sleep in their offices, for example, is harder to account for.
The 2019 homeless count results showed a point-in-time homeless population of 8,102 in San Diego County, including 4,476 unsheltered, representing a 5.5% decrease from the 2018 count.
Last year’s count showed 764 in the North County coastal area, including 120 in a subregion that included Encinitas, Del Mar and Solana Beach.
Results from this year’s count will be available later this spring.
Volunteers who participate in the annual count, organized by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, are broken into groups of two or three. Each group either walks or drives around a series of census tracts, which are small geographical subdivisions, and tally all the homeless individuals they see.
The volunteers who gathered at the Community Resource Center covered 75 census tracts in Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, as part of his statewide homelessness tour, was in San Diego the morning of the homeless count with state Sen. President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).
“Homelessness is one of the great social and moral issues of our time,” Atkins said in a statement, “and while I am pleased we have made important efforts through legislation and the budget, we know there is so much more to do.”
San Diego received $8.9 million as part of a $650 million State Emergency Homeless Aid package.
Hours before volunteers met at 4 a.m., the Encinitas City Council voted 4-1 to approve a plan that provides 25 parking spaces for homeless individuals and families living in their cars. First introduced last year, the proposal was met with opposition from Encinitas residents who had concerns about safety near the site, located at the Leichtag Commons on Saxony Road. Other residents who supported the idea, to be funded by a $256,000 California Homeless Emergency Aid Program that was awarded to Jewish Family Services, have said they feel it’s the least the city can do.
“There are many more people who see the opportunity to help others,” said Van Cleef, participating in his second homeless count as CEO of the community resource center.
The state also created a new website to help volunteers find opportunities to serve their communities. For more information, visit serve.ca.gov.