San Bernardino County logoThe decision by the Board of Supervisors last month to leverage $72.7 million in federal, state and county resources to support its landmark 2022 Homeless Strategic Action Plan positions the County well to address its share of regional growth in homelessness appearing in the results of homeless counts in many jurisdictions.

Due to a rapid increase in the cost of rent, a shortage of affordable housing, and deepening mental health and substance use disorder crises, San Bernardino County experienced a 26 percent increase in homelessness during the past year, according to the results of the 2023 Homeless Point in Time Count (PITC) conducted on Jan. 26, which were released at today’s (April 26) meeting of the San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership- Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH).

Other Southern California counties have reported or are expected to report increases in homelessness this year. San Bernardino County’s numbers were likely bolstered by the inclusion of data gathered by the Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach and Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) program separate from the PITC. Also, the County also had the highest ever number of volunteers for this year’s count, which allowed for the canvassing of more areas than ever before. More than 800 volunteers assisted in this year’s count, including more than 300 County employees.

“I would like to show my greatest gratitude towards the joint efforts of the San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership, all the volunteers and partners who went out of their way to assist, and the San Bernardino County Community Revitalization Office of Homeless Services for their count of unsheltered homeless in our County,” said Fifth District Supervisor Joe Baca, Jr.

“The teamwork our county has displayed is commendable. Our work here is just beginning, but the fact that we are seeing a lot of our funding sources such as the Social Work Action Group’s (SWAG) brilliant outreach program and the Sheriff’s HOPE Team make a positive impact goes to show there has been improvement.

“With the help of Pacific Village and the Kern Street facility, we will be able to increase the number of sheltered. Finding shelter for homeless families and individuals is only a small part of the bigger picture. We are in the right direction, and there is only improvement from here,” Baca said

This year’s PITC in San Bernardino County identified 4,195 homeless persons in the county compared to 3,333 last year, a difference of 862 individuals or 26 percent. However, the number of sheltered individuals increased by 29.1 percent – 275 people – showing that the County continues to make progress in providing housing options for the homeless.

“This is unacceptable. We must do more. Addressing homelessness is my priority. The investments my colleagues and I are making to support County staff in their implementation of strategies will make a difference. We will ensure those funds are invested wisely to address the crisis,” said Second District Supervisor Jesse Armendarez.

For instance, through the County’s long-standing partnership with the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino, ESG-CV (Emergency Solutions Grants – CARES Act) funds were used to help more than 360 families that were homeless, at risk of being homeless or were victims of domestic violence find permanent homes. And through Project Roomkey the County has served 2,210 individuals, 704 of whom have moved into permanent housing.

More than one-third (39.9%) of unsheltered adults and children counted as homeless became homeless for the first time during the 12 months prior to the homeless count.

Nearly half (44.1%) of unsheltered adults were chronically homeless, which is defined as being homeless for one year or more and having a disabling condition such as mental illness, chronic health condition, or a physical disability.

Nearly one-fourth (22.9%) of unsheltered adults answered “yes” when asked if they had been incarcerated during the past 12 months.

During this year’s count, County and non-profit outreach teams engaged homeless seniors over the age of 65 and other homeless with severe medical conditions to provide them with housing resources in the cities of Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and Victorville, which have the highest concentrations of homelessness.

Outreach teams contacted 128 individuals, and seven accepted long-term emergency shelter at the Orange Show Inn in San Bernardino. To date, five individuals remain sheltered at the Orange Show Inn and are receiving wrap around services and development of a housing plan from County departments and non-profit organizations.

This program, PITC Plus, goes above and beyond what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires for homeless counts.

As part of its requirements for communities to receive local homeless funding, HUD requires communities to conduct one-day point-in-time sheltered and unsheltered homeless counts. While HUD requires communities to conduct a point-in-time count every other year for the unsheltered, San Bernardino County conducts the count annually to better monitor and respond to homeless trends and identify subpopulations that require specific attention.

In partnership with several community organizations and county departments – including the Sheriff, Behavioral Health, Aging and Adult Services, Public Health, and Probation – the county is building on the successes achieved by the pandemic-inspired Project Roomkey and Project Homekey to make serious progress toward addressing homelessness throughout San Bernardino County.

The 2022 San Bernardino County Homeless Strategic Action Plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors in June is a unified and strategic approach to tackling homelessness in the county with clear, ambitious goals and an unprecedented alignment of 16 County departments. It revolves around a Homeless to Home Roadmap to Self-Sufficiency and focuses on strengthening the ability of County departments and community partners to make a collective impact toward reducing and preventing homelessness by housing the most at-risk, increasing shelter capacity, and improving the current systems in place to shelter and serve the homeless.

The Board of Supervisors last month gave a major boost to efforts to combat homelessness throughout the county when it voted unanimously to leverage $72.7 million in federal, state and county resources to support the 2022 Homeless Strategic Action Plan.

The Homeless Initiatives Spending Plan includes $15 million from the County general fund for a new County Housing Development Grant to support community-based homeless housing projects.

The overall plan allocates $72.7 million in available federal, state and county resources towards six strategic initiatives to address the root causes of homelessness by increasing the supply of housing opportunities for at-risk populations:

The spending plan includes $29.7 million for the Pacific Village Phase II expansion.

Pacific Village is one of several collective impact approaches to address homelessness in the county. Each of the treatment and housing typologies will provide individuals with semi-private or private housing rather than congregate dormitory beds.

Private housing provides a stable, dignified living situation and can be tailored to fit the specialized needs of individuals who require high levels of social and behavioral health support needed to accept and maintain housing. It is anticipated that Pacific Village will increase the number of individuals connected with housing and supportive services by 698 to approximately 726 annually.