The county of Riverside today released data on the number of homeless people living within the county limits and some of the numbers may surprise you.
According to the data, homelessness in Riverside County has decreased and nowhere is that more apparent than in the city of Palm Springs where the unsheltered homeless population went from 138 to 126.
“Thanks to support from the Desert Healthcare District and the new program with CVAG, as well as the city’s doubling our staff working on this we’ve housed more than 100 people, we’ve helped dozens get jobs, and we’re getting people off the streets,” said Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors.
But that is not the story county-wide. While the sheltered homeless population has decreased, the number of un-heltered homeless people has gone up in Riverside County, including in more affluent communities like Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert.
“I think the take away is that we know that we are sort of in line with other southern California counties, I think counties throughout the state, that are seeing upticks of their unsheltered homeless population. And when you hear what’s happening in other counties, our county is not immune to that,” said Jill Kowalski, manager of the homeless programs unit for the county of Riverside Department Social Services.
County officials say the increase in the unsheltered homeless population may have something to do with a lack of affordable housing. They are also looking to see if early prisoner release brought on by proposition 47 and 57 are contributing to the increase.
“We’ve been getting reports that there is more visible homeless, so we’re looking at that,” said Kowalski.
But in Palm Springs, where homelessness has decreased, city officials say it’s due to their housing first approach.
“First you need to get someone a place to live where they can get a shower and have some dignity. Then you can help find them jobs and benefits. That new program has been in place for six months and we’re already seeing really good results,” said Kors.
The homeless count has been conducted since 2005. The data will eventually become part of an annual report to congress.