By Mark Gutglueck
(April 30) A coordinated four-hour survey conducted in January reflected an eight percent drop in the number of homeless living in San Bernardino County over the last two years. The results of that survey, undertaken by the San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, several of the county’s cities, many of its law enforcement agencies, some churches, resource centers, community centers and a handful of other volunteers and participants, were tallied, tabulated and collated in March and submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in April.
Known as the 2015 Point in Time Homeless Count, the four-hour tally of those who are visibly homeless or in shelters or transitional housing programs provided data that was compared to a similar survey last conducted in 2013.
The undertaking, while energetic, farsighted, well orchestrated, admirable in intent and execution, was not comprehensive. Though producing definite, valuable and reliable data, certain limitations built into the survey, its methodology which included using uniformed law enforcement officers as survey takers, as well as its timing and brevity, doubtless left a portion of the county’s homeless population uncounted.
Conducted during the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on January 22, 2015, the homeless census for San Bernardino County turned up 2,140 persons fitting the definition of homeless as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
That number compared favorably with the 2,321 homeless population in the county counted two years previously, with 181 fewer persons without a place to live countywide, an ostensible decrease of 8 percent.
The phenomenon of homelessness and the hostility of public officials and law enforcement officers toward the homeless renders obtaining an exact count very difficult. Moreover, numbers can be at a variance depending upon the definitions applied. Nevertheless, the county’s incorporated cities and towns and several designated non-profit agencies worked gamely in collaboration with the San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership to recruit about 400 participants to count and survey the county’s homeless. That effort met the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s requirement that biennial homeless counts from communities that receive HUD funding be carried out.
Of the 2,140 persons in San Bernardino County ascertained to be homeless on January 22, 1,302 or 61 percent were unsheltered, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as “An individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning: An individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
Simultaneously, 838 persons or 39 percent were sheltered. Of these 838 persons, 468 were counted in shelters or received a motel voucher and 370 were counted in transitional housing programs.
HUD states that persons living in shelters or transitional housing programs on the night of the count must be included in the homeless count and subpopulation survey. As required by HUD, the sheltered count included the number of persons and households sleeping in emergency shelters (including seasonal shelters), transitional housing, and safe haven programs, of which the county has none, that were listed on the housing inventory chart. In addition, any persons staying in hotels or motels as a result of receiving a voucher from a social service agency were included in the sheltered count per HUD’s instructions if the voucher program was listed on the housing inventory chart.
According to the survey, homelessness was most heavily concentrated in six of the county’s 24 incorporated municipalities, with San Bernardino, the county’s oldest city, the county seat and the largest city population-wise, suffering the greatest incidence of homelessness. Of note is that more than three-fourths, i.e., 76 percent, or 1,626 homeless adults and children counted were in San Bernardino, Victorville, Upland, Yucca Valley, Ontario, and Fontana. Also, these six cities had more than two-thirds, that is, 68 percent, of the unsheltered population and the vast majority (88 percent) of persons counted in shelters and transitional housing.
According to the survey, Adelanto had three homeless individuals within its city limits, all of whom were unsheltered. Apple Valley had 22, eight of whom were in transitional housing and 14 of whom were unsheltered; Barstow had 78, 29 of whom were in shelters and 78 of whom were unsheltered; Big Bear had 12, all of whom were unsheltered; Bloomington had no homeless; Chino had 47 homeless, all of whom were unsheltered; Chino Hills had four homeless, all of whom were unsheltered; Colton had 53 homeless, all of whom were unsheltered; Fontana had 135 homeless, 29 of whom were in shelters with 96 unsheltered; the survey in Grand Terrace detected no homeless; Hesperia had 42 homeless, with 11 in shelters, 26 in transitional housing and five unsheltered; Highland had 24 homeless, all unsheltered; Joshua Tree had 20 homeless, all unsheltered; no homeless were detected in Lenwood; Loma Linda had nine homeless, all unsheltered; Lytle Creek had no homeless; Montclair had seven homeless, all unsheltered; Morongo Valley had six homeless, all unsheltered; Muscoy had 11 homeless, all unsheltered; Needles had eight homeless, all unsheltered; Ontario had 146 homeless, 51 of whom lived in shelters, 21 of whom were in transitional housing and 74 unsheltered; Rancho Cucamonga had 15 homeless, all unsheltered; Redlands had 90 homeless, with 10 in shelters and 80 on the streets or alleyways or parks; Rialto had 19 homeless, with five sheltered and 14 unsheltered; San Bernardino had 767 homeless, with 184 in shelters, 200 in transitional housing and 383 unsheltered; Twentynine Palms had 35 homeless, all of whom were unsheltered; Upland had 166 homeless, half of whom, 83, were in transitional housing and half of whom, 83, were unsheltered; Victorville had 261 homeless, 107 of whom were in shelters, 27 of whom were in transitional housing and 127 of whom were unsheltered; Yucaipa had nine homeless, all unsheltered; Yucca Valley had 161 homeless, with 30 in shelters, five in transitional housing and 126 unsheltered.
The survey broke the county’s homeless population down in terms of ethnicity, but did not give overall statistics in terms of race or ethnicity.
According to the survey there were 334 unsheltered women in the county, 96 or 29 percent of whom were Hispanic/Latino; 36 or 11 percent of whom were African American or black; 8 or 2 percent of whom were American Indian/Alaskan Native; 7 or 2 percent of whom were Asian; 5 or 2 percent of whom were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 179 or 54 percent of whom were white; and 22 or 7 percent of whom were multiple races or otherwise categorized.
According to the survey there were 848 unsheltered men in the county, 219 or 26 percent of whom were Hispanic/Latino; 124 or 15 percent of whom were African American/Black; 20 or 2 percent of whom were American Indian/Alaskan Native; 13 or 2 percent of whom were Asian; 5 or 1 percent of whom were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; 415 or 49 percent of whom were white; and 55 or 17 percent of whom were multiple races or other.
There were 350 unsheltered people with chronic health conditions.
There were 116 unsheltered people with developmental disabilities.
There were 287 unsheltered people with mental health problems.
There were 309 unsheltered people with physical disabilities.
Within the report it is acknowledged that those in medical facilities, such as hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and nursing homes on January 22, those in jails, prisons or juvenile detention facilities on January 22, those in chemical dependency facilities, such as substance abuse treatment facilities and detox centers on January 22 and those in foster care homes or foster care group homes on January 22 were not counted.
Unacknowledged in the report as not having been counted are others who fell out of or beyond the survey’s scrutiny, such as the sizeable colony of homeless living in the foothills in or above Rancho Cucamonga, a small but significant number of individuals who in January and other winter months would ride public transportation such as busses to keep warm, scattered numbers of people living beneath railroad trestles and freeway bridges at various spots in the county, those living in campgrounds, and the denizens of county communities such as Lake Arrowhead/Crestline/Cedar Glen/Blue Jay/Twin Peaks in the San Bernardino Mountains, Mt. Baldy and Wrightwood in the Angeles National Forest and Landers, Lucerne Valley and Johnson Valley in the desert. While the survey stated no homeless were detected in Lytle Creek, it is unclear whether the homeless census takers ventured as far up the canyon as Stockton Flats. Nor did the report tke stock of the considerable number of homeless living at various spots along the west bank of the Colorado River.
By Mark Gutglueck