Homeless count shows increase
Economy, competition for services, safety drive area population growth
With the jobless rate on the rise, the homeless population in North County San Diego has steadily increased. Last month, a Regional Task Force on the Homeless report was released that counted 7,582 homeless persons in North San Diego County. That number is a 9 percent increase from just two years ago.
Approximately 1,213 of those counted are located in North County.
Community Relations Officer Gaylon Sells of the Northwestern Division of the San Diego Police Department estimates lower numbers in the Carmel Valley area, but an increase in La Jolla, Del Mar and surrounding beach areas.
“We haven’t seen much of an increase in the homeless population east of (Interstate) 5 over the last couple years, but the numbers have definitely gone up along the coast and downtown,” Sells said. “Unfortunately, there are no shelters in our area, but Father Joe’s is a good place for the homeless.”
Interfaith Community Services also has several locations throughout Vista, and Father Joe’s does have locations all over San Diego, but for much of the North County homeless population, access to these shelters is a problem.
“Leslie” is a homeless woman who survives in the Del Mar area based on people’s generosity and centers such as the Community Development and Rehabilitation Center for meals and showering facilities.
“It’s hard to get to these places. I can’t walk 20 miles at my age, and bus fare costs money. Plus, when I get there, I’m not guaranteed of anything because of all the other homeless folks that are already in line waiting,” Leslie said.
“I like Del Mar because people are friendlier and folks have more money,” she said in an interview at Via de la Valle and Interstate 5.
Leslie has been homeless for about three and a half years. She said she prefers staying in beach towns, although there is a lack of shelters or other homeless services in the area, because she has to deal with a lot of violence downtown and has had her personal items stolen.
“But what’s really sad for me is seeing homeless kids. I’m seeing 20-year-olds out on the street asking for money or food or work and sleeping in bushes or under freeway overpasses. That just wasn’t happening two years ago,” Leslie said.
Coming all the way from Oregon, as a mother of three and grandmother of two children, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, Leslie also represents an increase in another demographic: seniors.
In 2006, the number of homeless senior citizens in San Diego County was 146. Today it’s 463.
Sgt. Roy Castaneda of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department reports that the problem is difficult to isolate.
“There are four primary groups out there; homeless, transients, illegal immigrants and then another group that likely have homes, but are out of work or just lazy and looking for handouts,” Castaneda said.
The police see these groups every day but unless they’re breaking a law, such as solicitation, they let them be, he said.
Fining or arresting them doesn’t help either since they don’t have money.
Another homeless man, Ed, just arrived in San Diego at the beginning of February. He walked, camped and hitchhiked his way here all the way from Fresno.
“I came here because it’s warmer,” he said.
Hanging out, asking for money, food, or work, he has found spots in Solana Beach, La Jolla and Encinitas to beg.
“I hate this, but there’s not much else I can do. I was fired from my job six months ago because my company was not doing well. Then my wife divorced me. I ran out of money and couldn’t pay the bills so I had to get out,” Ed explained.
Ed now struggles to survive day to day.
“I’m a certified CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machinist. I’m a skilled guy, but I don’t even have an address now, so how can I even get a job?” he said from an onramp off Interstate 5 in La Jolla. He’d just arrived from Encinitas. Prior to that he was had spent a few days in Del Mar.
“These shelters help, but there aren’t many of them and they’re few and far between. Plus there’s a lot of people competing for a little food,” Ed said.
He, and many other homeless people like him, live in the North County coastal areas since they’re warmer, provide some shelter and people will occasionally give them money for food or bus fare.
But with little hope for the immediate future, they are running low on options.
“A few days ago, Denny’s was giving away free breakfasts, but a friend of mine and I were turned away because the manager felt the customers would complain since we’re homeless, so tell me what am I supposed to do?”
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