A volunteer surveys homeless San Diegans in downtown for the annual point-in-time count in 2020. / Photo by Megan Wood

The latest results of the annual homeless census show that Oceanside’s unsheltered homeless population significantly increased since 2020, while Escondido’s decreased.  

The point-in-time count wasn’t conducted for unsheltered residents in 2021 because of the pandemic, and the count should be viewed strictly as a “minimum,” according to the director of the Regional Homelessness Task Force, which conducts the federally mandated count.  

Nonetheless, the count this year found Escondido’s unsheltered homeless population, which has been the highest in North County for the past few years, decreased by more than 30 percent, while Oceanside’s increased by more than 30 percent. 

Though Oceanside has had one of the largest homeless populations in the North County region for several years, the city is just now preparing to build its first homeless shelter

Megan Wood / Voice of San Diego

Click here to view North County homeless population in a new tab.

The city received $2.25 million in federal funding to convert an old high school building into a proper homeless shelter. It also struck a deal with the San Diego Rescue Mission to operate the shelter.  

That was back in March, and Donnie Dee, the Rescue Mission’s CEO, said he hoped the shelter renovation would be finished by now. Construction is expected to begin in June, and the shelter could be operational in the fall. 

“It just took a little longer than we hoped,” Dee said. “We’ve got people living in hotels that need to be transported over. We’ve got people living on the streets that we need to build relationships with, so we’re really ready to get going and implement our program in Oceanside.” 

Escondido’s homeless population has also been steadily high for the past several years, but the significant drop in unsheltered individuals could be a sign of progress. 

Greg Anglea, the CEO of Interfaith Community Services, a homelessness prevention organization headquartered in Escondido, said they have made great strides in preventing individuals from becoming homeless, but are still seeing significant numbers of chronic homelessness. 

“There are less than 100 low-barrier shelter beds in all of North County. We have 49 that Interfaith operates here in Escondido for men and women, and then Catholic Charities operates 50 beds in Carlsbad only for men,” Anglea said. “So if there’s an extreme lack of shelter beds, it means that when somebody wants to get off the streets and they want to get help, there’s usually no place for them to go.” 

Interfaith is expecting their second permanent shelter in Escondido to be open by the fall. 

Anglea added that regionally, the homeless population is increasing, and until more resources and shelters are created, it will continue to increase. 

“People are frustrated,” Anglea said. “They want to see less individuals experiencing homelessness in their community. We need to create the resources to do that, and we need to demand of our government leaders that this become a priority.” 

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