Survey: Double-Digit Percent Increase in Homeless Countywide

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - The number of identified homeless people in Riverside County jumped 21 percent this year compared to last, but even current figures may not reflect the actual number of dispossessed persons, according to a report that the Board of Supervisors will review Tuesday.

The Department of Public Social Services will be submitting results of its Jan. 29 ``Point-in-Time Survey'' to the board for approval so that the report can be certified and filed with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, which uses the analysis to determine the size of homeless assistance grants that will be allocated to the county.

According to DPSS, the PIT survey documented 2,811 sheltered and unsheltered homeless adults and minors throughout the county, compared to 2,310 in 2018.

``The significant increase in the 2019 PIT count can be attributed to an enhanced count methodology that covered a wider area within the allotted count time, increased efficiency through use of a mobile web-based technology instead of paper surveys, implementation of revised survey questions ... planned targeting of encampment sites, an increased number of volunteers, and increased participation from city leaders,'' according to an agency statement.

Even with elevated efforts to canvass the homeless countywide, officials wrote that the 2019 survey failed to completely capture ``the actual number of homeless individuals'' because there remain places where they are staying well off the beaten path, inaccessible to volunteers who try to find them during the one-day outing.

An estimated 700 volunteers took part in the PIT survey, compared to roughly 500 in 2018, walking into abandoned buildings, visiting encampments along the Santa Ana River bottom and similar spots, checking alleys, looking around parks and visiting shelters to make contact with displaced people.

Sheriff's deputies, probation officers, mental health specialists, nonprofit workers and community members, as well as elected municipal representatives, volunteered time for the PIT survey, which is federally mandated as part of HUD's Continuum of Care program, seeking to end homelessness.

This year, a mobile app, ESRI Survey 123, was the primary means of documenting the number of dispossessed people in the county.

According to DPSS, the majority of those counted in the one-day census -- 2,045 -- were unsheltered homeless.

In 2018, the county received $10.1 million from HUD in support of homeless mitigation programs, which include transitional housing, job training and behavioral health resources. The state disbursed $11 million.

The California Homeless Emergency Aid Program and the California Emergency Solutions & Housing Program have already guaranteed the county $10.02 million in assistance this year.

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