About 1,300 volunteers took to the streets today 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.
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 Service