Our quest to better understand homelessness in San Diego continues. Among our next steps we’ll be trying to figure out how much various agencies and governments spend to combat homelessness. And we’ll be looking at some of the most ballyhooed programs in recent years — especially ones that house frequent users of emergency services.

But there are a couple more points to make on the first phase of our quest — the effort to size up the population of people who are living in shelters and on the streets here.

If you’re just joining us: We looked at what goes into the most commonly cited number, the point-in-time count compiled by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Last year’s count pegged the homeless population on a morning in January at close to 10,000 people across the county.

(That count happens again in a few weeks on Jan. 25. You can help with the effort if you’d like.)

In the central city, including downtown, there were 1,122 people sleeping on the streets during that count.

For a smaller portion of the central city, there’s a more regular count done once a month. The Downtown Partnership, a business organization, conducts a count for the five downtown neighborhoods covered by its Clean and Safe team. The organization’s security staff counts the number of people sleeping on the streets once each month, during the team’s late shift from midnight to 6 a.m.

Those numbers fluctuate depending on the time of year and whether certain services are in effect — like when the city’s emergency winter tent opens and begins housing 225 people per night.

In the first 11 months of 2012, the team counted an average of 581 people sleeping on the streets in those five neighborhoods: East Village, Gaslamp, Core Columbia, Marina and Cortez. They supplied numbers from the last six months of 2011, when the team counted an average of 513 people.

In 2012, the highest number was consistently in East Village. The team found 306 people sleeping on the streets in November, 566 in October and 451 in September. The average number over the 11 months was 300 people in that neighborhood.

The Core Columbia neighborhood also registered triple-digit numbers of people sleeping on the streets, with an average of 163 counted over the 11 months.

The neighborhood with the smallest population was Marina, near the waterfront. An average of 25 people slept on the streets there in the first 11 months of the year, the organization found.

Counting the number of people on the streets in downtown is important. The central city houses many service providers and hosts the emergency winter tent. And the new permanent service center opens in the former World Trade Center at 6th Avenue and A Street later this month.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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