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Annual count shows large rise in North County homeless population

2024 Point in Time Count
Posted at 6:33 PM, May 23, 2024

VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) — The statistics from the annual Point-in-Time census of San Diego's homeless population, conducted in January, show a significant spike in the number of unhoused North County residents.

Dramatic increases occurred in San Marcos, which saw a 1,650% increase (from two to 35), Vista (from 88 to 170), Carlsbad (from 60 to 112), and Encinitas (from 73 to 123).

While the percentages are lower, Escondido saw a rise of 97 unhoused residents and Oceanside 71. Poway, Fallbrook, and Ramona all saw declines, but they only combined for 23 fewer unhoused residents between the three communities.

“I don’t think we’re seeing success anywhere. The problem continues to get worse," Vista Mayor John Franklin said in an interview with ABC 10News Thursday.

Franklin pointed to the early success Vista is seeing with its new Buena Vista Navigation Center, a shelter designed to provide services to help care for residents and guide them toward more permanent housing. The center's director says that so far, half of the residents who have moved on have done so for drug/alcohol rehab or housing.

However, Franklin says the greater problem is getting the large population living on the street to accept the help of a shelter. Franklin says 94% of chronically unhoused Vista residents approached to go to the shelter have declined.

“Some of them we’ve asked 20 times and developed relationships with," Franklin said. "We’ve asked them if they’d come and accept a safe, warm bed here, three hot meals a day, a hot shower, clean clothes. And unfortunately, because of mental illness and addiction, the answer is we don’t want to come.”

Hannah Gailey, executive director of Retread, the organization that runs Buena Vista, said she even found the dramatic increase in Vista's homeless population this year surprising.

Gailey suggests that unless the core issues causing San Diego to be so unaffordable to so many are addressed, more and more people will find themselves falling into being unsheltered.

“I think people would be surprised by how ordinary their unhoused neighbors are, that it is not always extraordinary circumstances that leave people unsheltered,” Gailey said.