San Diego Leaders Point Fingers as County Data Reveal a 22% Rise in Homelessness

The number of unhoused people in San Diego County jumped 22% this year, according to the latest Point-in-Time Count released Thursday. More than 10,264 people now sleep on the street or in shelters on any given night, with half of them outdoors. 

For the first time, the survey included people sleeping on Caltrans property. When comparing the same amount of ground covered in 2022, the county’s increase in homelessness was 14%. The largest increases occurred in the cities of San Diego, Escondido and Chula Vista

The crisis is putting pressure on city and county leaders. At a press conference Thursday, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria appeared to point the finger at other cities in the region. 

“… [T]he City of San Diego is alone in terms of what we have done on homelessness. We’re providing shelter, we are providing safe parking, we are providing street outreach and case management, we host the day center. Tell me what other city in this region that has anything near the amount of services and shelters that we provide in the City of San Diego, there aren’t many,” he said.

“This is where services are and that’s why people are coming here to access them. Let’s be clear, if you are homeless in San Diego County, and you want help, you are likely coming to the City of San Diego for that help. We know this from talking to our outreach teams, we know this from reading your media stories, we know this from other mayors who readily admit they transport their homeless to the City of San Diego.”

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells took offense to those statements. He cited data that show El Cajon, not San Diego, is the city with the highest per capita spending on homelessness.  

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey also weighed in on Gloria’s remarks in an interview with KUSI.  

“I agree with Mayor Gloria’s assessment that more needs to be done, and I would offer that policies have consequences. And when we have allowed people to set up tent encampments on sidewalks…

when we allow people to use hard drugs openly in the public, when we allow people to litter and sleep in parks and on beaches, this is the consequences of those policies.”

Bailey said “we have moved from a situation where we were previously providing people with services to help get them back on their feet, to now providing services to enable people to live a destructive lifestyle that also affects the surrounding communities.”

The San Diego City Council is set to vote on a controversial anti-camping ordinance Tuesday, June 13. The new rules would prohibit camping on public property when shelter is available. Encampments would be banned at all times within two blocks of schools and shelters, as well as in parks, along waterways, and at transit hubs.

Gloria is backing the proposal, which was proposed by Councilmember Stephen Whitburn. Homeless advocates and progressives have slammed the mayor for trying to “criminalize” homelessness. They call it a face-saving attempt ahead of his bid for a second term.