San Diego County’s Homeless Count Questioned for not Including People Living in RVs
In late May, homeless advocate Michael McConnell asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to not ratify this year’s count of San Diego County’s homeless due to it leaving off almost 600 people. The Regional Task Force on the Homeless organized the January count and released a report in May that showed 540 fewer people living outdoors and in shelters throughout the county this year compared to 2017. According to the data, there was a six percent decrease in homelessness, dropping from 9,116 to 8,576 in one year. However, this year’s count did not include people living in recreational vehicles, which McConnell believes may have contributed to the decrease. In a letter to Norman Suchar, director of the office of Special Needs Assistance Programs at HUD, McConnell wrote,
RVs were included in the count in past years, so this represents a significant change in methodology. The change appears to have occurred without much thought or training.
According to last year’s report, there were 1,846 people living in vehicles, including cars, vans and RVs. However, this year’s count found 1,262 people, including only cars and vans, which is a difference of 584. The San Diego Union-Tribune notes that people doing the count didn’t check inside each vehicle, instead they used a multiplier to estimate how many people each vehicle held. In 2017, they counted 1.66 people per vehicle and this year they counted 2.03 people per vehicle. According to HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan, local agencies have flexibility in deciding whether to count RVs as homeless dwellings in their communities. It appears that there needs to be a consensus between the local agencies to decide whether to count RVs as homeless dwellings to get a better understanding of the actual number of homeless people.