Numbers up over 2022; new emergency shelters partially driving increase
May 29, 2024
  • Redwood City – The official One Day Homeless Count, a tally of those who live outside in every corner of San Mateo County or are spending the night in a shelter, found 2,130 people experiencing homelessness on Jan. 25, 2024.

    The numbers represent an 18 percent increase from a count conducted in 2022. While imperfect, the point-in-time count provides a snapshot of homelessness officials use as a gauge to measure the success and needs of service programs. Local officials say the higher number is fueled by a 38 percent increase in those in shelters, a fact local officials attributed to a growing number of emergency shelter beds available to cope with the crisis.

    Data released today from the Jan. 25, 2024, count found that those homeless individuals counted outside of a shelter (this includes staying on the streets, in cars, RVs or tents) increased by 5 percent to 1,145. Taken together with those counted in shelters, there were 322 more individuals counted in 2024 than 2022.

    With ongoing housing affordability challenges, income inequalities, and other challenges continuing to contribute to homelessness, the County has seen increasing needs in recent years. In response, the County has devoted significant resources to expanding shelter and other homeless services, with a goal of reaching functional zero, where every unsheltered homeless person in the County who chooses assistance can be sheltered in an emergency shelter or in temporary or permanent housing.

    “While we never like to see our numbers go up, I am heartened by the fact that we saw an increase in those receiving shelter in our emergency facilities like the Navigation Center and El Camino House,” said Claire Cunningham, director of the Human Services Agency. “This means fewer individuals in less safe situations such as on the street or in tents. And shelters provide case management and supportive services to help residents move toward permanent housing.”

    The data is not perfect since it captures solely what teams of outreach workers and volunteers discovered during a few hours on a particular day. For example, in 2022 the count was conducted during inclement weather. Also, the County has also created new shelter capacity at its Navigation Center in Redwood City (240 units) and El Camino House in San Mateo (44 units) over the past two years.

    The One Day Count is conducted every two years as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The collected data is compared with historical counts to show trends over time. The County also conducts surveys of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the week following the observational count to provide more granular information on their specific demographics and circumstance.

    The executive summary released today reports:

    • 2024’s 5 percent increase in unsheltered homeless is smaller than the 21 percent increase between 2019 and 2022.
    • For those counted while unsheltered, 40 percent were in an RV, 31 percent in a car or van, 19 percent on the street, 7 percent in a tent or makeshift shelter and 3 percent were other.
    • The 2024 count found that Redwood City had the most homeless individuals, followed by Pacifica and unincorporated San Mateo County, particularly the coastside.

    “This confirms our work is never done and we remain committed to helping as many of our unhoused residents who are willing to accept it,” said County Executive Officer Mike Callagy. “Our Board of Supervisors has made reaching functional zero homelessness a key priority and we make strides toward it with every person we move from the street or their vehicle into a place with a warm roof, the supports they need to be successful and the dignity we all deserve.

    Read the full executive summary here. The complete One Day Count Report is expected to be released later this summer.


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