There were more than 500 fewer people living on the streets, in cars or encampments in 2015 compared to 2013, according to a homeless census conducted by the San Mateo County Human Services Agency.
The agency released its executive summary Wednesday as city and county officials met with affordable housing advocates in a Housing Our People Effectively Interagency Council meeting headed by county Supervisor Warren Slocum.
The numbers represent the first decrease in the overall number of homeless, on the streets or in shelters, since 2009.
The summary shows that some cities, however, have far more unsheltered homeless people than their percent of San Mateo County’s population.
Brisbane, East Palo Alto, Half Moon Bay, Pacifica and Redwood City each have greater numbers of people living on streets than their percent of the county’s population.
The numbers are worse in Half Moon Bay, since its 12,000 residents only comprise about 1.6 percent of the county’s population. With 84 individuals counted as unsheltered in Half Moon Bay, it is home to nearly 11 percent of all homeless people in the county considered unsheltered.
The report was discussed before Bill Lowell, the county’s housing director, indicated that fewer landlords are now accepting Section 8 vouchers.
Only 89 percent of the county’s roughly 4,300 vouchers are currently being utilized, Lowell said Wednesday.
“We’ve never had anything like this,” Lowell said.
His agency is working on providing more incentives to landlords to accept the vouchers.
“The answer to homelessness is housing. We sometimes forget that,” Lowell said at the meeting, which was attended by officials from Samaritan House, InnVision/Shelter Network and HIP Housing.
There are currently seven affordable housing projects under construction in the county, he said.
The county has pledged $30 million to help fund the construction of affordable housing that should aid nonprofit builders such as MidPen Housing to secure additional tax credits from the state to spur more construction.
But the county has limited resources to combat the area’s housing crisis, he said.
“We have a $100 problem with $2 to spend,” Lowell said.
HIP Housing’s Kate Comfort Harr said her agency is providing a bonus to any homeowners who open up a room to share for individuals with housing vouchers.
Redwood City had the highest total number of homeless people considered unsheltered at 223. Another 159 individuals in Redwood City lived in shelters ranking it second in the county with 382 individuals in total considered homeless.
Redwood City, with a population of about 81,000, comprises about 11 percent of the county’s total population but 29 percent of the homeless population living in the county.
Tops on the list is San Mateo at 423. Most of those, 341, were counted in shelters, however.
East Palo Alto ranks third on the list for the highest number of homeless people living there at 178 with 95 living on the streets or in vehicles and 83 being sheltered, according to the report.
Menlo Park ranks fourth at 173 with 27 being counted as being unsheltered and 146 living in shelters.
The number of homeless living in shelters across the county, however, increased slightly by 2 percent, according to the one-day count conducted earlier this year. The count is done to secure federal Housing and Urban Development funds.
The 2015 count revealed that 775 individuals in the county were unsheltered compared to 1,299 in 2013, a 40 percent drop.
Another 997 were living in emergency shelters, motels with voucher assistance, transitional housing or institutions in 2015 compared to 982 in 2013.
The 1,772 homeless people counted in 2015 were comprised of 1,387 households with 147, 11 percent, having dependent children, according to an executive summary of the census.
No children, however, were discovered living on the streets, according to the report.
The summary, presented by consultant Kate Bristol, showed that fewer cars, vans and recreational vehicles had sleeping occupants in them compared to 2013.
The increase in the shelter count is considered “insignificant” since the number of beds provided by service agencies remains about the same, Bristol said.
Some cities saw significant drops in the numbers of homeless people considered unsheltered.
In San Bruno, the number dropped from 99 in 2013 to 8 in 2015, a 92 percent decrease. In South San Francisco, the number dropped from 172 in 2013 to 55 in 2015, a 68 percent decrease. In Belmont, the number dropped from 43 in 2013 to 11 in 2015, a 74 percent decrease.
Foster City, Portola Valley and Hillsborough did not have any unsheltered homeless in 2015, according to the report.
The city that had the largest increase in the unsheltered homeless population was San Carlos from 10 in 2013 to 21 in 2015, according to the report.
A final report to the community will be released later this month.
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