SLO County survey finds slight decrease in homeless population

SLO County survey finds slight decrease in homeless population

homelessness in San Luis Obispo County

homelessness in San Luis Obispo County

Report shows 1448 homeless in San Luis Obispo County

– San Luis Obispo County recently released the 2022 Homeless Point-in-Time Count & Survey (PIT). The PIT survey, typically conducted every two years, surveys sheltered and unsheltered people who are experiencing homelessness. The survey is conducted in compliance with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuums of Care (CoC) program.

The counts took place countywide over two days. Those in shelters were counted the evening of Feb. 22 and unsheltered people were counted from daybreak to 10 a.m. on Feb. 23. Normally, the count is conducted in odd-numbered years but there was no count in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Even though the number of people directly involved in conducting this year’s count had been reduced due to COVID-19 safety concerns, more than 80 outreach workers, volunteers and guides participated in the street count.

The PIT survey reports 1448 people experiencing homelessness in San Luis Obispo County, 2% fewer than were reported in 2019. Of the total, 80% (1156) were unsheltered and 26% were sleeping in vehicles. Of the unsheltered, seven were unaccompanied children and some were families.

Families included a total of 428 family members in 121 families; 62% were sheltered and 38% unsheltered.

During the weeks following the street count surveys were administered to homeless individuals resulting in 333 complete surveys providing a deeper view of the county’s homeless. The report covers a wide range of homelessness factors including living and sleeping accommodations, demographics, health and incarceration, employment and income, and duration and causes of homelessness.

Living and sleeping accommodations

The PIT count followed the HUD definition of homelessness, which includes individuals and families living in supervised shelters or with a primary nighttime residence that is not designed as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

The majority (492) of unsheltered homeless are in unincorporated areas of the county. The next largest population (248) is San Luis Obispo, followed by Paso Robles (174), Morro Bay, Grover Beach, Atascadero, Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach.

San Luis Obispo has the largest population living in shelters (137), followed by Paso Robles (60) and Atascadero (42).

The following figure from the report enumerates sleeping accommodations by region.

homeless San Luis Obispo County

Image from the San Luis Obispo County 2022 Homeless Point-in-Time report.

Demographics and health

The largest percentage of the homeless population in San Luis Obispo County identified as white. Those identifying as male represent the largest percentage of both chronic and nonchronic homeless, followed by those identifying as female.

San Luis Obispo County homeless report

Images from the San Luis Obispo County 2022 Homeless Point-in-Time report.

The largest percentage of homeless individuals (77%) are 25-years or more in age. Age range from 18 to 24 years old represents 5% and 18 and younger is 18%.

Sixteen individuals surveyed identified as veterans, a substantial decrease from the 144 veterans reported in the 2019 PIT. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports “the estimated number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has declined by nearly 50 percent since 2010.” The SLO County PIT report credits the local decline in the veteran homeless population as “a major success in outreach and recovery efforts for this group.”

The role of health

The leading personal health issue reported by those participating in the survey was PTSD (46%), followed by psychiatric or emotional issues (43%). Alcohol and drug abuse was reported by 35% of those surveyed. Chronic health problems were reported by 31%, physical disabilities by 27%, traumatic brain injury 23%, developmental delay by 11% and HIV/AIDS related illnesses by 3%.

Health is also an overall factor contributing to homelessness with psychiatric or emotional conditions and physical disability reported as the leading contributors.

San Luis Obispo County homeless report

Image from the San Luis Obispo County 2022 Homeless Point-in-Time report.

COVID-19 also had an influence with 20% saying that COVID-19 is keeping them from employment and 38% reporting they have received the vaccine.

Employment, income and assistance

There was an 86% unemployment rate among those surveyed. Some reported having full-time employment (14%) or seasonal/sporadic employment (8%). Thirty-two (32%) responded that they were looking for work, 41% were not and 27% indicated they were unable to work.

Most respondents to the survey (84%) reported some form of government financial assistance. The largest percentage (31%) receive food stamps, 19% receive Medi-Cal/Medicare, 11% reported receiving COVID-19 related assistance, 5% receive SSI/SSDI/disability benefits and 5% receive Social Security.

Regarding employment and assistance, the PIT report concludes: “Despite some income, data suggest that employment and income were not enough to meet basic needs.”

Duration and causes of homelessness

The majority of the respondents (83%) have been homeless for a year or more and experienced their first episode of homelessness at 25 years or older  (74%).

The factors influencing the inability to find a place to live is often the result of many causes. The causes of homelessness presented in regards to chronic homelessness include: substance abuse, arguments with family or friend, a death, mental health needs and COVID-19 related issues. However, an examination of the primary overall causes of homelessness alcohol or drug abuse is a leading cause (19%),  followed by divorce, separation or breakup (18%), eviction (18%) and job loss (17%).

San Luis Obispo County homeless report

Image from the San Luis Obispo County 2022 Homeless Point-in-Time report.

Domestic violence is not listed as a contributing cause to homelessness, but the PIT reports, “Histories of domestic violence and partner abuse are prevalent among individuals experiencing homelessness, and can be the primary cause of homelessness for many.” Ninety adult survivors of domestic abuse responded to the survey, showing 37% experiencing domestic violence during their lifetime and 10% currently experiencing domestic violence.

When asked what would have prevented them from becoming homeless, those taking the survey listed benefits/income, rent assistance, employment assistance, food assistance, and transportation assistance.

San Luis Obispo County homeless report

Image from the San Luis Obispo County 2022 Homeless Point-in-Time report.


Download the report

The 2022 PIT report is available to the public and can be downloaded here.

Paso Robles Daily News