Advocate says hundreds excluded from latest homeless count

The homeless population is counted every year
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jun 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-06 19:42:01-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- There is confusion over the latest homeless numbers, as advocates say the official number is underreported.

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell said the count is wrong. 

"I hope the Regional Task Force on the Homeless realizes what a mistake they made and how important this is to count people," McConnell said. "To not sweep people under the rug, and to bring in those federal, state and local dollars based on real numbers, real facts. Facts matter."

Every year, volunteers count the homeless population. Those numbers are given to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The "WeAllCount" annual report showed a six percent drop in homelessness compared to last year. However, McConnell said people living in their RVs were not included.

10News also confirmed the San Diego Rescue Mission's homeless population, which was 310 people at the time, was not counted either due to late paperwork. That adds up to potentially more than 600 people.

"If they were included plus some other factors, the count would have gone up," McConnell said.

The San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless is in charge of the count. Tamera Kohler, the Chief Operating Officer, did not respond to requests for comment by 10News. She told the Voice of San Diego, who first reported this issue, the RV data needed more analysis. However, that missing data was not announced when local leaders unveiled the supposed drop in homeless numbers.

"I think it just hurts the credibility of our effort to resolve homelessness in San Diego," McConnell said.

He said this could have fiscal impacts, since communities are competing for money to help fight homelessness. He wrote a letter to HUD, asking it to look at San Diego's numbers again.

A HUD spokesperson told 10News they have not fully analyzed San Diego's data, but if they do have issues, they will contact the community to discuss it. 

10News reached out to Supervisor Ron Roberts' office. His spokesperson, Tim McClain, said there was confusion over the county, but said "nobody was trying to hide this."

"We've been doing it wrong," McClain said, regarding the recent count. He said they are working to make sure next year's count will be done right. He added that next year's total is what counts toward funding since HUD requires the reports every other year. 

In an email, McClain told 10News RVs were "instead lumped in with cars and not included as a separate line item for making the count’s annual estimate." He said the new homeless task force leadership flagged the error and sought pre-count guidance from HUD. 

"Ron is happy to know actions taken this year will ensure the long-standing RV confusion will have been resolved," McClain wrote.