SAN DIEGO — The number of unsheltered individuals in downtown San Diego hit a record high in January, marking the sixth straight month with population growth in the area.
Data from the monthly count conducted by the Downtown San Diego Partnership found that about 1,939 unsheltered individuals were living in the area. In December, the Partnership counted 1,839.
The nonprofit’s count found that East Village continued to have the highest concentration of unhoused individuals living in the neighborhood with 794 people counted — a slight decrease from December.
About 640 people were accounted for in neighborhoods along the outside perimeter of downtown — the second highest population totaled by the nonprofit, as well as the area with the biggest increase in people between December and January.
“The continued increase in the number of unhoused individuals in San Diego is an unacceptable tragedy,” San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said in a statement to FOX5SanDiego.com. “We know the only way to begin to make progress is by simultaneously preventing people from losing their homes and by expanding the shelter and housing options available in the city.”
The City’s shelter capacity has expanded by nearly 60 percent over the last two years with the addition of about 700 beds, according to Deputy Director of Communications Dave Rolland.
While the city has made progress towards expanding shelter and housing options, the number of people who fall into homelessness continues to grow, making it harder for people already experiencing homelessness to access the resources needed to get out of it.
The Regional Taskforce on Homelessness reported late last year that for every 10 people that are placed in housing across the county, an additional 13 more fall into homelessness — a trend that is placing additional strain on outreach and housing programs.
“Everywhere I go, there’s new people,” homeless advocate, Michael McConnell, said to FOX5SanDiego.com. “People are staying out here longer, with fewer opportunities to get out of (homelessness).”
McConnell said that many of the unhoused individuals he has spoken with, both in the downtown area and around it, are frustrated, because its taking that much longer for outreach workers connect them with the resources they need given the demand for services.
“There are only so many temporary solutions,” McConnell continued. “There’s a tremendous need not being filled (right now) — we can’t keep up.”
Despite the difficulties of meeting this need, Rolland said that the Mayor’s initiatives have helped house nearly 1,900 people, with an additional 300 exiting outreach programs into another residential facility.
“The programs Mayor Gloria has initiated are working,” Rolland said in an email to FOX5SanDiego.com. “That’s why the Mayor is leaning into homelessness prevention.”
That prevention is focused on eviction — the main contributor to homelessness.
Last year, many of the tenant protections put in place during the pandemic lapsed, including a moratorium on no-fault evictions, or displacement of a tenant where they did not violate the terms of their lease.
After the expiration of that moratorium, preliminary eviction case filings with the San Diego County Superior Court hit a five-year high in October, inewsource reported.
To address this issue, Gloria and Elo-Rivera announced a new framework for a City Council proposal on new tenant protections in December, including policy goals such as implementing relocation assistance for those facing eviction without a violation of the terms of their lease and additional notice for landlords seeking a no-fault eviction.
Legislation based on the framework is expected to go before the council sometime in the next few weeks.
“We’re prioritizing prevention through our proposed enhanced tenant protections and through expanding funding for people who only need a few hundred dollars to keep them in their homes,” Elo-Rivera said. “We’re also pushing to expand shelter and housing options through the use of the old city library as well as hotels and motels. We won’t stop pushing for solutions until we’ve made the progress that must be made.”
But for advocates like McConnell, these efforts are still not happening fast enough to address the worsening crisis.
“City leaders open a shelter for 30 people, then 300 to 400 people are added to the (unhoused) count,” he said. “None of this is done to scale. They’re nibbling around the edges.”