Report: Homelessness common among two-thirds of arrestees in 2018

SAN DIEGO — Roughly two-thirds of 2018 arrestees in San Diego County have been homeless at some point in their lives, according to a report released Thursday by the San Diego Association of Governments’ Criminal Justice Research Division.

The analysis of last year’s arrestees found that one-third of those surveyed had been homeless in the month prior to being booked in jail, and two-thirds reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. In a similar report in 2007, only 50% of arrestees reported being homeless at some point.

Male arrestees were more likely to be homeless than women and were more likely to become homeless due to the loss of a job, while women were more likely to become homeless to escape abuse of domestic violence.

Arrestees who were homeless at least once were also roughly twice as likely to have dealt with drug and alcohol addiction, including 29% of homeless arrestees having visited the emergency room for alcohol or drug issues compared to 16% for non-homeless arrestees.

“These data clearly show us that an increasing number of individuals in our justice system have housing instability, which is often related to mental health issues and substance abuse,” Criminal Justice Research Director Dr. Cynthia Burke said. “A multi-tiered and collaborative approach will be needed to address the concerns of our community related to homelessness and the underlying needs of these individuals.”

Among arrestees who were homeless in the last year, 23% said they expected to still be homeless one year from now. Of that 23%, 58% expected to continue being homeless because they couldn’t afford housing and 42% said they enjoyed living on the street. Roughly 75% of homeless arrestees first became homeless in San Diego County.

SANDAG criminal justice researchers compiled the report after conducting an annual round of interviews with juvenile and adult arrestees within two days of being booked into jail. Researchers added questions about homelessness to the annual drug-use survey in light of ongoing local dialogue about the issue.

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