Riverside County Conducts Annual Homeless Population Count, Increase Seen Last Year

Carmela Karcher

“They’ve all been open to the receiving of services,” Riverside County Housing Workforce Solutions Deputy Director Michael Walsh shared. “Their number one question is, ‘I want to find a place to live.’”

Homelessness across Riverside County is growing.

“When I was a kid, I never saw much homelessness here. Now, you see it everywhere,” Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said.

But on Wednesday, the county took another step to help this vulnerable population.

Over 1,000 volunteers, nearly 200 more than years past, took part to help identify how many people are living in cars, under bridges, in encampments and homeless shelters.

All with the goal to get as many people connected to resources as possible.

“Once we have those facts, that data, it allows us to apply for funds that are connected to the continuum of care,” Supervisor Perez said. “What that means is dollars at the federal level, dollars at the state level, that we can receive through advocacy to grant writing so that we can provide housing, transitional housing, and mental health services.”

And the reasons for why this population is growing are endless.

“The biggest issues that we’re facing are the rents are going up and incomes are remaining flat,” Walsh said. “It pushes them on the brink of homelessness, forcing them to live in their cars, homeless shelters and in the streets.”

“You have folks that unfortunately, get caught up in drugs. You have issues of domestic violence. You have folks where they don’t have access to mental health services. All those are reasons why the homelessness population seems to be growing here,” Supervisor Perez explained.

And one population has seen an uptick in homelessness over this past year.

“Their social security benefits haven’t gone up. Those rents go up and it makes it harder for them so we’re seeing more and more seniors popping up on the streets,” Walsh shared.

But for these volunteers, it’s not just about the study.

It’s also about bringing awareness to those who need support.

“These are someone’s cousin, brother, relative that is out here for some sort of circumstance and we need to approach it with a degree of compassion on how we can actually get these people out,” Walsh said.

Despite last year’s uptick, for the first time in six years, officials said the sheltered homeless population was increasing while the unsheltered was decreasing.

Once all the data is processed, we’ll see if the same trend continued into this year’s study.

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