Santee Homeless Count Finds Less Camps Than Last Year, Says Volunteer

The annual homeless count was conducted across San Diego Friday morning, and an early report suggests less homeless camps in Santee than last year, according to Gary Strawn, a local vounteer with the San Diego River Park Foundation who participated in the count.

Here's his comment posted to Santee Patch Friday afternoon:

"Just finished the annual homeless count along the San Diego River in Santee, from Carlton Oaks Golf Course to RCP. Found 17 or 18 camp /structures, which is down from this time last year. We did not count the camp on Forester Creek or the ones on San Diego City property between 52 and Westhills Pkwy. The problem remains serious, but it appears that the Santee is doing a good job of controlling the problems. The FACTS show that the perception of a huge and growing problem is not true. Thanks to Friends of Santee River Park, San Diego River Park Foundation volunteers and the City of Santee for their hard work. P.S. We don't harass the homeless, we just haul the trash out of abandoned camps."

Strawn was one of 1,300 volunteers took to the streets Friday in the annual countywide point-in-time homeless count, which helps government agencies and charities get an idea of how many people are living on the streets and in shelters.

His count of 17 or 18 camps comes in just about the same as last year's count of 18- a vast improvement from the 26 tallied in 2012 and 58 in 2011.

Homeless living along the San Diego River in Santee have raised the ire of residents, especially when they congregate at local parks and panhandle in town. A spree of copper wire thefts in Santee over the last moth has cost the city about $48,000. Mayor Randy Voepel publicly blamed the the spree on "tweekers" that are using cell phones given to homeless in order to find a job to team up and use "lookouts" to avoid being caught.

City council has addressed the homeless issue numerous times. The Sheriff's Department conducts sweeps of the riverbed on a regular basis to ticket illegal campers. Police reports lately have shown an uptick in citations for illegal camping. 17 tickets were handed out in the last couple weeks, apparently the entirety of the homeless along the river were ticketed.

Here's more about the count from City News Service:

Those taking part in the downtown San Diego part of the count gathered at 4 a.m. at Golden Hall and fanned out soon after so they could find the homeless at locations where they spend the night.

Among those participating were Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, county Supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and Councilmen David Alvarez, Kevin Faulconer, Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman.

"It's important because we can't solve the problem without knowing the size of the problem," Gloria told CBS8.     Mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the census is conducted to identify the number of homeless individuals -- including sheltered and unsheltered, their locations and detailed demographic information.

The data enables officials to better understand the scope, impact and potential solutions to homelessness. It also helps the community to qualify for funding for programs that address the issue, according to the task force.

"We found out that the federal funding formula is skewed, so we're third in homeless population in San Diego but only 18th in funding," Peters told CBS8. "So we're working with the local community to bring attention to that in D.C. We'd like to change that around and get more of our fair share."

Volunteers also handed our toiletries to the transients they encountered.

Cox called it an "eye-opening" experience.

"We talked with several homeless individuals, including a veteran and a pregnant woman," Cox said. "The experience was humbling and helped me gain a better understanding of the gaps in services and the many challenges facing these individuals."

The county applies for homeless funding from HUD on behalf of the Regional Continuum of Care, a joint collaborative effort between the county and the city of San Diego. In 2013, HUD awarded more than $15 million to pay for local services to the homeless.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless will gather all the data collected by the volunteers and release results at a later date. Nearly 8,900 homeless people were counted last year, according to the county.

-City News 

COMMENT: Does it seem like the number of homeless in Santee has reduced over the last few years?

Linda O'Connor Van Wickel January 24, 2014 at 07:41 PM
Maybe fewer camps, but I see more homeless around town. Saw one lady in Walmart two days before Christmas, with her whole life in a shopping cart, sitting in a chair in front of the electronics dept. She was wrapped in a blanket and looked very sick.


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