By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– A new data-collecting technology and targeted mapping were used to capture a more accurate number of homeless people in our communities during San Bernardino County’s Homeless Point-In-Time Count on Jan. 24.
This year, 2,607 homeless people were counted, a 23 percent increase from 2018 when 2,118 people were counted throughout the county.
In past years, surveyors used pen, paper and a clipboard to capture the numbers, but this year, they used ESRI’s Survey 123 for ArcGIS, a digital form that simplified the way surveyors entered information about the people they interviewed in the field eliminating the need for surveyors to devote time and effort determining what questions to ask.
Target mapping was instrumental in a more strategic use of manpower. The day of the count volunteers were dispatched with maps of homeless encampments, which the County Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) Team had identified while assisting the homeless throughout the year. Then as the PITC Command Center received data from the field during the count it was instantly mapped allowing the immediate dispatch of back-up teams to assist in target areas needing more surveyors.
“The use of the ESRI app gives us a more realistic sense of the growing problem we are facing, making the 2019 Point-In-Time Count numbers the most accurate to date,” said Vice Chair of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Josie Gonzales, who is also chair of the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH).
“Past reports enabled us to identify and successfully first address chronic homelessness among veterans, then unaccompanied women and families with children; the current report reveals a significant increase in homeless persons, age 55 and older,” said Gonzales. “All these reports reveal our critical need for additional funding to enable the coordinated delivery of housing, physical and mental health, as well as other critical services, to get homeless individuals – especially the most vulnerable members of our communities – safely and permanently off the streets.”
Another significant factor in the increase is the rising cost of housing, particularly for people on a fixed income. The numbers of adults on the street age 55 and older increased 71 percent from 246 people in 2018 to 422 people in 2019. Fair market rent in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area is $926 a month for a one-bedroom unit, $1,156 a month for a two-bedroom unit, $1,618 for a three-bedroom unit and $2,004 for a four-bedroom unit, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Almost 19 percent of the 1,873 adults on the street counted this year became homeless for the first time in the last year. Nearly a quarter of adults living on the streets in the county – 450 – are unaccompanied women.
“This year’s Point-In-Time Count data points to both a need to prioritize high risk homeless populations for housing and services, and a need for innovation,” said Kent Paxton, chair of the ICH Point-In-Time Count Committee.
“Homeless seniors and those with critical health conditions are at highest risk to perish on our streets, need to take priority in our homeless outreach efforts. New outreach strategies, like the county’s Department of Behavioral Health’s InnROADs Program, which will provide health and mental health services in the field, in conjunction with the Sheriff’s HOPE Team outreach efforts, will more quickly engage, treat, and provide housing for those high risk populations,” said Paxton.
Ending homelessness in San Bernardino County remains a priority for the Board of Supervisors, who created the San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership in 2007. Since the board’s initiative on homeless veterans, announced July 2016, the county has successfully housed 1,096 veterans. As well, since January 2017, 191 chronically homeless people with mental health issues have been housed.
On April 16, the Board of Supervisors and Gov. Gavin Newsom held a roundtable discussion about the county’s efforts to fight homelessness and solutions to the problem moving forward.
The 2019 report lists the following nine recommendations to end homelessness amongst the pre-identified populations:
- Develop a multi-jurisdictional strategic plan that will be initiated and finalized by the County of San Bernardino, cities, and the San Bernardino County Continuum of Care (CoC);
- Encourage each city to adopt their unsheltered homeless count numbers as baseline numbers;
- Increase the Number of Permanent Supportive Housing Units;
- Set an annual quantifiable number of permanent supportive housing units to be developed based on the number of unsheltered chronically homeless individuals identified in the recent Point-In-Time homeless count, Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), and Coordinated Entry System (CES);
- Prioritize through the Coordinated Entry System the most vulnerable and frail persons who are languishing on the streets including those with life-threatening health conditions and/or who are aging on the streets;
- Completely align with a Housing First model and low barrier approach for chronically homeless individuals and families consistent with federal, state, and local approaches;
- Completely align with a rapid rehousing and low barrier approach for non-chronically homeless individuals and families;
- Align the current homeless services delivery system with a goal of ending homelessness among unaccompanied women; and
- Increase Rapid Rehousing Assistance.
Community volunteers, community groups, faith- and community-based organizations, County departments, city representatives and staff, homeless service providers, law enforcement and elected officials assisted with the count.