San Diego saw a rush of newly homeless people last year.

About half of San Diego’s homeless population is newly homeless, according to data analyzed by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.

The ongoing study paints a starker picture of San Diego’s homeless crisis than the annual point-in-time count, a census taken on a single morning every January.

Between last October and this September, researchers found more than 17,550 people had used homeless services – and many of them were new to the street or shelters. That’s roughly twice the number counted during this past January’s census.

And agencies who assist the homeless made nearly 10,300 new entries into a regional homeless services database meant to track those receiving help during the same period.

That number reflects folks who hadn’t accessed homeless services the previous five years, said Sue Lindsay, who leads the San Diego State University’s Institute for Public Health and was hired to help the Task Force analyze the data.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Lindsay unveiled the numbers late Thursday at the Regional Continuum of Care Council meeting, where leaders countywide gather monthly to discuss strategies to address homelessness.

“Now there are some who would say because the problem is growing we’re not doing enough so why do anything? What I would say is that we just need to do more,” said San Diego Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry, who leads the regional council. (The group plans to merge with the Regional Task Force early next year.)

Gentry said he looked forward to further analysis of the numbers and noted one positive takeaway in the data: San Diego County agencies helped more than 6,600 homeless people move permanently off the streets last year.

The rub is that so many more became or remained homeless during that time.

Lindsay and Gentry believe the new data will allow local leaders to closely track their success and the needs of the homeless-serving community throughout the year.

The new data represents a new chapter for efforts to address homelessness in San Diego.

For years, San Diego’s homeless-serving community has largely relied on the results of the point-in-time count to shape local programs and initiatives. Regionally, it’s only had an anecdotal sense of the percentage of newly homeless clients versus those who have been using services for years.

There’s still much to sort out. Researchers have yet to do a deep dive into whether San Diego’s seen a larger boom in newly homeless people the past couple years, or to delve into the stories behind those newly homeless people.

Lindsay said they’re planning to scrutinize the data as much as they can in coming months.

Greg Anglea, executive director of nonprofit Interfaith Community Services, said the data validates a story that’s been largely anecdotal up to this point: There are many newly homeless San Diegans.

“What we see with eyeballs in downtown and in other communities is really being backed up in a major way by hard data,” Anglea said.

    This article relates to: Homelessness, Nonprofits/Community

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about San Diego city and county governments. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

    Chris Wood
    Chris Wood subscriber

    First - to everyone “Merry Christmas”.

    Was wondering what might be a solution to homelessness, which I think will be increasing with the Trump presidency due to his cabinet selection (e.g. “Medicare as it exists today is finished," Mulvaney said at a townhall in 2011”). Medical bills as you may know are the greatest cause of bankruptcy (and loss of home) for example.  There are four ideas that are somewhat “out of the box” that I would like to suggest.

    1.Government is probably the only organization with resources and legal clout to successfully handle the homeless situation.

    2.Two recent VOSD stories have to do with funding of CALTRANS since Proposition A failed. i.e. SANDAG needs to find $18 billion to keep going.

    3.CALTRANS is a civil engineering organization that with redirection could create low cost housing in unused space in San Diego County.  They have the knowledge; organization and drive to accomplish it (have heard them called Nazis by a community planner).

    4.If San Diego County residents are willing for a ½% sales tax increase be applied to ending homelessness then the $308 million raised per year could engage CALTRANS in using basic manufactured housing ($50K/dwelling) to create housing for 6,160 people per year (12,000/yr. if couples housed first).  See

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    This problem will continue to grow. According to news articles, 44% of the people in the country approaching retirement age do not have a pension and have no retirement savings in the bank. In the 1990s and the last decade, most private corporations dropped or froze their employee pension plans in a manner that screwed the employees and boosted the bonuses of company executives. As more people are forced to retire or are laid off, many of them end up as alcoholics, or addicted to pain medications. Today, more people are dying from opiate overdoses and liver disease than are killed by car accidents or gunshot injuries. These people have lost hope and are depending on social security and Medicare to survive, meaning that private companies reneged on pension and retiree healthcare promises and forced its former employees to depend on taxpayer funded safety net programs to survive. Some of these people have ended up living on the street after losing their homes, and they will soon be joined by millions more. VOSD should consider doing a series of articles detailing how local companies dropped or froze employee pension plans, and how this leading to increased taxpayer costs and more people forced to live on the streets. Name and shame the local companies who helped create the problems described in recent articles.

    Scott Rossell
    Scott Rossell

    As a homeless person living in San Diego, I can tell you that the "homeless" issue is not as black and white as most muggles would like to think. Sure, there are people who are homeless due to drug or alcohol abuse. Yes, there are people who are homeless who suffer from mental conditions. But they are the minority - granted, the most obvious and disturbing, so they're noticed more easily. And since they fit the comfortable degenerate stereotype muggles so often depend on to satisfy their woefully uninformed psyche as they trudge through their own miserable lives, they're the ones that get counted. It's easy to count pilfered shopping carts loaded with dirty personal items covered with tarps. It's a simple matter to take a day and count beat up vans and RVs. But the vast majority of people I have met on the streets as "one of them" live in their new, still unpaid for cars, vans, RVs, and some even in delivery trucks. Where you might count ten homeless people milling about, I will easily know twice as many in vehicles you don't even see. I know them because I compete with them for parking space every night. You get to recognize each other pretty quickly at 10 pm. And believe it or not, most of them are employed, or rather under-employed.

    The major cause of homelessness in San Diego is not about drugs or alcohol, "able or willing to work", or the even the cost of housing. Yes, those are contributing factors, but not the major issue. Work and roommates can be found to make life work in San Diego if you're healthy and able. But no one accidentally lives here. San Diego is politically and socially belligerent toward the homeless. Yes! More so than other cities. We actually had to deal with a serial killer this year on top of being generally hated for reminding people there is a reality outside of their pointless, rat race, Starbucks-driven existence. A homeless man's dead body was burned under an overpass just walking distance from where I was sleeping. I've had rocks thrown at my vehicle by a couple of young, healthy, employed men after they enjoyed a jog at the park. We're routinely harassed and ejected from public park parking lots because "someone complained". Sure, can't have that scary reminder of their inevitable future staring them in the face while they distract themselves with a morning jog in the park.

    No, the major problem in San Diego is that there are more people here who actively hate (not just ignore) the IDEA of homelessness. San Diego is a winner's town where people compete for the fast lane and battle in the office for top dog status. It's a Navy town where losing is not an option. It's a beautiful town where only those who earn deserve to enjoy it. And all excuses be damned! Chronic health condition? Mental disorder? Lack of education? Victim of abuse? Disappear you pansy-ass reminder that one wrong step in my life could reserve me a parking spot next to you filthy people!

    Companies hire and fire like people are nothing more than ethereal concepts. No one can depend or trust their employer to work WITH them when problems arise so they can work FOR them for the long haul. We're all expendable. But that's okay, because I know that nearly EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU MUGGLES will be flat on your ass just like me in the future. We pride ourselves on achieving 4.3% unemployment while something more like 20 to 40% are under-employed. Just last week the GOP put up a bill to reduce Social Security. How long before it's gone altogether? Then what will you paycheck-to-paycheck haters live on? No one wants Socialism in this country, but "Don't touch my Social Security!". The word "social" is in the name for Christ's sake! If you want to live in a Socialist country, just stay where you are and grow old.

    You want to fix your "homeless problem"? That's easy. No really, it is.. Just do two things: 1) Implement basic bi-weekly income for everyone which has to be spent or forfeit every month for basic human needs such as housing and food. No one can horde and get rich this way and it's an automatic monetary force to keep the economy flowing. 2) Make homelessness illegal. Yeah, you read that right! If you're homeless, you get a nice ride to a state run National Guard facility (NOT PRIVATIZED - the idea is not to make money off the homeless) where you get clothed, fed, examined and treated if necessary, and then put to work on real community service and infrastructure improvement projects until you earn your way out. And earning is the POINT. You're scheduled to earn and save whether you like it or not. Trust me, after a sobering haircut and barracks living, you'll have figured out who needs real help and who just needed a kick in the butt. And isn't that the San Diego way after all?

    Joe Jones
    Joe Jones subscriber

    @Scott Rossell @Chris Wood  Poor Scott...a loser in a "winner's town." But he'll laugh in the next life, comfortably ensconced in heaven, enjoying the suffering of "burning, tormented souls."

    But at least he's not mentally disturbed. We'll take his word for that.

    Chris Wood
    Chris Wood subscriber

    @Scott Rossell I like the post. Scott writes far better than I, which makes me wonder that if he could not avoid being homeless what is my likelihood.The idea “…1) Implement basic bi-weekly income for everyone…” is a current news story

    which may become a requirement as automation which replaced factory workers morphs into artificial intelligence which replaces white collar workers (my sister was laid off as a medical transcriptionist through voice recognition productivity improvement).It certainly seems to be a factor in the recent presidential election … so it may be a good idea for politicians (and everyone else) to start thinking about solving - now.

    Scott Rossell
    Scott Rossell

    @Chris Wood You make a very good point. You can't even buy a canister of propane from Home Depot without interacting with an automated cage control device that replaced the employee who used to follow you outside to make use you properly handled a potentially EXPLOSIVE MATERIAL. Outsourced phone-based technical support in India is even replacing their employees with automated voice-recognition systems. If people from India can't even take our jobs anymore, what chance do we have of keeping ours as technology continues to eliminate them?

    I don't have high hopes for intelligent change in economic policy in this country, especially anything as radical as basic income when we can't even maintain a functional high speed rail or space program. We continue to languish in antiquated concepts and ideas while the rest of the world naturally continues to look forward. American Capitalism is supposed to be about competition and thrives on Ayn Rand's beloved economic policy of greed, which works for the strong and healthy alphas in their Metropolis utopia as they fight to scrape their way to the top of the heap. But if you've got a hitch in your get-along, well you're just a lazy waste of human fodder unfit for the hog troughs. Meanwhile, the alphas fail to look down and realize that the heap they've been climbing over by step[ping on the necks of their peers and less capable citizens is made out of sh....

    In the end, we all die. No, seriously. It's on your calendar, I guarantee it. I will die knowing I did the best I could to be a caring human being while holding up to my responsibilities. When all is said and done, it will be difficult to conceal my schadenfreude as I sit back and enjoy the view of the endless fields of burning, tormented souls in hell who thought profit and greed at the expense of their fellow man was somehow acceptable behavior. But I digress....

    Um...Merry Christmas. Especially you, Grinch Wizard Volgelsang,

    Scott Rossell
    Scott Rossell

    Ha! Joke's on you. You took the bait. (What a herd of angry little troll children). I'm an atheist and don't believe in heaven or hell. I used that mythos to weed out the the self-righteous - And looky here! I found one. All the more reason for me to have a strong work ethic in spite of heartless people like yourself who get such pleasure in being verbally repugnant to people you don't even know. I'll bet you're a coward in person too. Now go play with your toys little boy. That's a good little troll.

    P.S. folks. I'm out. The ratio of turds in this punch bowl is just a tad much for my palate. I've got better things to write about for better people out there who are actually capable of having an adult conversation instead of hiding behind the internet and tossing turds at intelligent people like monkeys in a zoo.

    Fighting the Good Fight
    Fighting the Good Fight

    @Scott Rossell  Hey Scott! Don't give up hope. You sound like you have a lot of passion and fire within you. Don't lose that fight.. turn it inside out and use it for good. Don't be afraid to ask for help.. believe me.. people that work at the Social Service organizations love to help. Hope you find your tribe out there in the wilderness ..

    Michael Schroyer
    Michael Schroyer

    @Scott Rossell Hi Scott My name is Michael, I read your Comment above and you are right! I am now Middle Class Citizen, Professional Welder making a decent living  but just to know I feel your pain...Why?...I was you 10 years ago.  I also read the comments of the ignorant people who replied to your comment....Before I comment Listen to me carefully Scott!...Don't let anyone...I mean any one distroy your dreams!  Ok with that said. let's get to the meat of the subject.

    Let's look at first some different topics that are known contributers to an indavidual losing their status in society and ending up Homeless.  (People reading this may be surprised)

    1. Loss of Job due to (A) Lay Offs (B) Economy (C) Fired (D) Injured.

    2. Loss of Home or Apartment and Innadequate Means To Recover

    3. Rejected By Family dou to Religious Beliefs, Sexual Preference ETC.

    4. Run Aways

    5. Price of Living VS Limited Income (Common In Greedy San Diego)

    6. Mental Illness

    7. Drug Abuse and Alcohol Abus

    8. Running from the Law

    9  Economy

    A lot of the contribitors especially in San Diego for the High Homeless Population are due to Company Policies on Hiring citizens who have become homeless without proper re-habilitation, but yet rehabilitation seems to be harder to get then one suspects.  It is also hard for a person now living on the streets, car RV etc to get a job becouse a lot of companie policies state that a candidate for employment must have 1 reliable transportation and 2. must have a address other than a post office box.  Then there is the factor of Housing the Mentally Ill, Elderly, Disabled and Vet's....All I can to that is WOW!  No city should ever let a person with a disability, elderly or a Vet be Homeless.....Ever!!!!

    A few things I did notice that the ever growing Homeless Population encountered was: 

    1. the lack of adequate housing, especially for the Disabled, Elderly, Mentally Ill, and Veterans.  (A) Most of the housing was either open bay, or SRO (single room occupancy) Hotels.  (B) The rules where very strict and if you had pet's or partners you could not even share the same room nor where you allowed pet's, you could not even have friends over without signing them in and they where not allowed to spend the night.  

    2.For Shelters the paper work difficult to fill out, and the wait times just to get a bed where very long sometimes months to a year of wait time

    3. There was virtually no where to put the mentally ill where they could be housed and properly treated.  If there was anything like for instance HUD housing the wait times are virtually unreachable!

    4. As for those that where capable, the job search was tireless to almost impossible due to the policies that many companies both small and large had on Homeless

    5. Although there where Drug and Alcohol Programs for those with such Habit's Re-habilitation Centers would release them but usaully Homeless would end up right back into the same addiction due to ending right back on the streets.

    6. The new laws and budget cut's have limited the City of San Diego and made it Impossible for Homeless to get things like A Social Security Checks...Food Stamps....WICK...Especially for the Mentally Ill, and or Veterans.

    7. I literrally watched Law Enforcement take blankets, Tents for temporary shelter, Personal Clothing, Personal Items and throw them into "locked Dumpsters" leaving Homeless to the eliments.  How this helps Homeless I do not know?  All I see it as a way to harrass and push and move the Homeless Population or corral them to a more undesirable spot where they are even more unsafe.

    8. Yes it is nice that Churches and Organizations have feedings, but that should not be limited to just feeding homeless but also to re-habilitate and re-enter them back into main stream society as upstanding citizens.

    Some Soluttions to the problems

    1. Our economy is getting better and both Able Homeless and the communities could benifit from Employing Able Homeless by getting them into a special temporary shelter to housing while employing their services.  For instance (A) Park and Recreation for I.E. the Bay Parks, and Balboa Park could benefit from employing the new "Ex-Homeless" doing park clean up, Trash removal even Lawn Maintenance.  (B). The City of San Diego Sanitation Department, Local Sherrif Departments Could Benefit by Employing Ex-Homeless with Police Car Clean Up and Trash Removal.

    2. Homeless Educational Programs designed to integrate Homeless back into Society through Free Education or Grant offered Educational Programs designed to not only take Homeless and transform them back into Working responsible Citizens.

    3. Drug Rehabilitation Programs...And I don't mean Jail...Rehabilitation programs designed to not only clean up drug abuse but to "build confidence and Re-Employ Homeless to Re- Integrate them into Society.  This also helps to stimulate our economy even more in a positive light.

    4. Housing and Hospitals for the Mentally Ill.  This is a Handicape How dare we allow the Handicap with disabilities and mental Illness to be Homeless...What Kind of Society Are Weto Allow this?

    5. Instead of Police Harrassing Homeless, Jailing and Fining them, taking their belongings, let's work on a more positive note and Help the Homeless.  If relocation is a must let's make sure we don't take their belongings, Identification Etc, that will displace them further, but instead let's help them back up.

    In Conclusion:

    Let's all do our part to help our fellow citizens of this "Great Country" I don't care if your Poor or Rich, Small Business Man, Civic Leader, Larg Corporation...We all need to help our fellow man.  I feel that not one person should think that they are above another person.  

    Scott Rossell
    Scott Rossell

    @Jake Vogelsang 

    How did I know a pathetic little troll would be the first to respond to my message? I didn't mention my personal situation because it just sounds like fishing for pity or some other self-important nonsense. I am fully aware of my responsibilities and my challenges and NO ONE owes me a damn thing. My life is not San Diego's fault. What an incredibly short-sighted comment! Perhaps you're somehow jaded to think that we homeless are all just lazy leeches on the teat of society, expecting the government to somehow pay our way while the rest of the community works their ass off to pay taxes for us to live some kind of "easy life", but that's not true in my case and I resent the accusation. Sure, there are those who fall in to that misguided notion, but your presumption that we are all of that ilk is callous and ignorant.

    Not that it matters to a blind, deluded, self-important, fool like yourself, because you made up your mind long before facts had a chance to enter your thick skull, but I have suffered from a condition called metabolic cataplexy for the past 40 years which is a form of narcolepsy that makes working and keeping a job damn near impossible. In spite of that, I used to make $85K a year. I used to have a condo, two cars, a wife of 22 years and a nice job as a technical writer (among 27 other jobs I've worked and lost over the years due to my condition.) But that's really none of your business and I chose not share it because insensitive, sociopaths like yourself get off on being insufferable bores.

    San Diego is a hard town. But more importantly, I wouldn't have it any other way! Why else would I suggest outlawing homelessness. (I guess you missed that part, huh?) If you can't take the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen. I'm sure there are plenty of other places in the States where the cost of living and the number of infantile morons per capita is much more tolerable, but I chose the opportunity to eventually overcome - or die trying. Can you say the same for yourself?

    The only thing the government owes me is protection from unsympathetic, gum-flapping, idiots like yourself so I can have an equal opportunity to work for a living like everyone else. That's it - pursuit of happiness. Pursuit! Sadly, the quickest way to end an interview in this city is to say "I do have one little issue with a physical disability that the Social Security Administration has yet to recognize..." End of interview. You face trying to tell the truth about your physical condition during an interview and see how far you get! I lied for forty years and hid my condition as best I could until it inevitably caught up with me after 6 to 8 months; found asleep at my desk, found asleep in the car in the parking lot after a nap without lunch that went too long, unable to wake up to even get to work, unable to stay awake to go home FROM work, unable to stay awake during meetings...and unable to get the SSA to recognize that it's a real friggin' condition.

    Someday I'll find an employer who gives a rat's ass about a human's right to work who will work WITH me instead of just exploiting my skills and then discarding me when I no longer meet their expectations. But until then, I'll continue honing my skills writing ridiculously long forum comments to morons who can't see humanity beyond their own hubris.

    That's for the pathetic attempt at a comeback. Jackass!

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Ms. Halverstadt: Some questions for you (maybe for another story). There are various assertions bandied about that many of the local homeless were dumped here by other communities (e.g. sent on a one way bus ticket) or traveled here from other communities due to more favorable weather, etc. Do these counts address this question in any meaningful way? 

    The UT reported yesterday that unemployment in the area is at 4.3%. Is there any way to juxtapose this to the homeless issue? For example, are the homeless unable or unwilling to work; or do they work, but the income is inadequate to cover housing? I would imagine there is some mix of this such that some percent are unemployable, some are unwilling to work, and some work, but can't afford housing. It would be interesting to understand this aspect of the issue.

    lorisaldana subscriber

    @Chris Brewster great questions. 

    What I've observed/read in various reports is that even with low unemployment there will always be older adults, FT parents, people with disabilities/health conditions etc.who are not able to participate in the FT workforce. Add those who  lose their housing when a spouse/parent/partner dies, or a relationship ends due to divorce or other change, removing half (or more) of their income. 

    Others have an illness/injury/addiction/chronic health condition that reduced their work hours and pushed them over the edge. And this is an expensive region: even with a FT job, at low wages, housing costs may be out of reach.

    Finally, add general lack of affordable housing: SROs, apartments, etc. have been lost faster than they are being replaced. Newer units are being built, but often rent for over $1K/month. And with avg.  prices approaching $500K- forget home ownership. 

    All this means simply finding affordable rentals is becoming difficult, which is why the "Housing for Heroes" program, to place veterans in rental units using VA funding, is not even half-way to their annual goal of placing 1000 vets in permanent, secure housing despite a focussed efforts coordinated via the Mayor's office.

    Until these agencies understand and come up with ways to address all these factors, San Diego's streets will continue to be "home" to thousands.

    Scott Rossell
    Scott Rossell

    As far as I'm concerned, NO SINGLE VETERAN should EVER be homeless in this country. But the painful truth is, all powerful democratic governments know they can't stand against a strong internal military and so intentionally keep them under thumb. If the U.S. military ever realized they've been held at bay like an elephant trained not to pull at a thin rope tied to a stake, and suddenly started taking care of their own and defined citizenship as an earned right only after military service (read Heinlein), this country would be far more efficient and functional. It would also be decidedly non-democratic. So, for the better good of the Capitalist elite, veterans get just enough to survive. Nothing more. If you disagree, I'd love to hear your opinion. But only if you're an adult who can form an intelligent sentence and not some petulant troll toddler. (Present company excepted of course, Chris.)

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Ms. Halverstadt: Really good stuff. The three myths article is particularly valuable because it uses facts to contradict some lazy reporting elsewhere that has resulted in widely believe "facts."

    Fighting the Good Fight
    Fighting the Good Fight

    The annual point-in-time-count just seems fake. Yes, it counts the homeless in shelters (that should be fairly easy) and then asks for volunteers to go out onto the streets and count the homeless. That's like trying to count ants in an ant pile. You can count the visible ones on top.. but there's scores more underneath in the pile! What about people living in their cars, couch surfing, living with relatives and those that hide from the volunteers? The 17,000 number is amazingly more accurate and paints the stark picture of folks living in daily survival mode. It seems like so many people live one hardship away from homelessness.

    Bruce Higgins
    Bruce Higgins subscriber

    @Fighting the Good Fight 

    As someone who has worked on the annual point in time count, I can tell you a few things: It is mandated by HUD, if you want federal dollars for homelessness you must conduct a count.  The people who conduct the count admit they miss many people.  The count also gets people who don't use shelters or services who would otherwise never be counted.  Just as important as how many homeless, is their location, we must know this if we are going to provide services where people are going to use them.

    It usual for opinion to be preceded by knowledge, but evidently not in all cases.

    Pat Seaborg
    Pat Seaborg subscribermember

    @Fighting the Good Fight The count is not fake at all.  I would invite you to register to join us in the Point in Time Count by going to the Regional Task Force website (  Then you will learn more about how it's done.  I've done it for more than 10 years, and it's very interesting.  Plus free donuts and coffee!

    Everyone involved has to attend training (in person or via web) on how to do their assigned task about a week prior to the actual count.  The count involves both enumerators (fancy term for the people doing the counting) as well as surveyors (those who do individual structured interviews with homeless people to get in depth information.)  More than 1,000 volunteers are involved in this project each year.

    People doing the counting are given a geographical area map for their assigned area, usually organized by census tracts.  In areas of high density of homelessness, such as downtown, the assigned areas are smaller, and will usually be walked block by block.  Larger areas are surveyed by teams in cars driving around all areas of the county.  

    You keep separate counts of homeless people observed, tents observed, and cars being slept in.  On the maps you are marking the exact locations so that you are counting not only how many, but where they are.  

    Counts are done starting at about 4:30 am and ending several hours later. People living in shelters are separately counted by those programs' staff.  Obviously not everyone who is homeless is observed, since you can't find everyone.

    The surveys are individual interviews that take about 20 minutes apiece; questions are asked about physical and mental health, disability, substance use, history of being abused, income, health insurance, where you were living before becoming homeless, cause of initial homelessness, legal history...many questions which are aggregated to provide descriptive data about the homeless.

    No one claims that the final count each year is counting everyone.  But I think it's reasonable 

    to assume that if the number of observed homeless goes up or down from year to year, it suggests that overall homeless probably follows a similar trend.  Since the Regional Task Force also tracks how many have applied or are receiving homeless services in the county, that provides another level of monitoring of the volume of homelessness.