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Wanton Beckwith, 40, who is homelessness, right, talks to San Bernardino Mayor Helen Tran during San Bernardino County’s 2023 Point in Time homeless count in downtown San Bernardino on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Wanton Beckwith, 40, who is homelessness, right, talks to San Bernardino Mayor Helen Tran during San Bernardino County’s 2023 Point in Time homeless count in downtown San Bernardino on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
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The number of San Bernardino County residents experiencing homelessness jumped 26% last year, county officials said.

According to the county, 4,195 homeless people were identified during the Jan. 26 Point in Time Count, up 862 from the 2022 count. Homelessness numbers have steadily risen since 2017, when county officials and volunteers counted 1,866 homeless county residents.

Second District Supervisor Jesse Armendarez, who , called the numbers “unacceptable.”

“The reality is that the report was bad,” he said Wednesday, April 26. “This is proof of how bad it really is. We at least have a baseline and can have accountability moving forward. We have a real game plan that we will be able to move forward with, together.”

In a news release, the county blamed the increase in homelessness on housing costs and “deepening mental health and substance use disorder crises,” as well as better reporting due to the highest number of volunteers ever for this year’s Point in Time Count — more than 800 — along with data gathered by the Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach and Proactive Enforcement team.

Other information released by the county in the Wednesday:

  • The number of people in shelters grew faster than the number of homeless residents, up by 29.1%, or 275 people.
  • 39.9% of county residents experiencing homelessness became homeless for the first time during the 12 months before the Jan. 26 count.
  • 44.1% of adults experiencing homelessness were chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for a year or more and have a disabling condition such as mental illness, a chronic health condition or a physical disability.
  • 22.9% of homeless adults said they had been incarcerated in the past 12 months.

“Obviously, when you see the numbers, it’s always concerning,” 5th District Supervisor Joe Baca Jr. said Wednesday.

But, he said, the county is now taking a “leadership role” in combatting homelessness.

In March, the Board of Supervisors voted to allocate $72.7 million in federal, state and county resources to fight homelessness in the county.

The money will go toward:

  • Expanding existing shelters and long-term residential facilities
  • Continuing the pandemic-era Project Roomkey program that temporarily turned hotel and motel rooms into housing for homeless people
  • Funding for local homeless outreach groups
  • Funding homeless programs run by cities
  • Funding for affordable rent programs, shelters, support services and rental assistance programs

“If we can take steps to prevent people from becoming homeless, I think that’s important,” Baca said.

The county’s plan focuses on creating more places for homeless residents to go when they’re ready to get off the street. Those seeking beds or shelters can be turned away by shelters that don’t accept people with pets or past drug offenses.

“When we find someone who needs help, we need to have a place to put them,” Baca said.

Last year, San Bernardino County reported a 6.6% increase in the number of unhoused people in the county. The due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2022 6.6% increase in the homeless census was smaller than the double-digit percentage growth in homelessness reported in 2020, 2019 and 2018.

Riverside County is expected to release the findings of its 2023 Point in Time Count homeless count during the Board of Supervisors’ May 9 meeting, spokesperson Brooke Federico said via email.

Staff writer Jeff Horseman contributed to this report.

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