Homelessness increases across county

The county’s latest homelessness figures released Tuesday show a 49 percent increase over the last comprehensive count two years ago.

On a given night, the number of homeless jumped to 2,064 in 2007, up from 1,385 in 2005, a 49 percent increase, according to data collected for the San Mateo County Homeless Census and Survey.

Taken over a year, that is an increase of 65 percent to 6,646 in 2007 from 4,030 in 2005, said Steve Kaplan, director of substance abuse and shelter services for the county.

Experts on Wednesday blamed the large increase on more effective data collection — including flooding the streets of Peninsula cities with about 300 volunteer counters of homeless people — rather than actual increases in the number of homeless people in the county.

An estimated $5.2 million in federal Housing and Urban Development funds that come to the county depend on the count being completed, officials said.

“We don’t believe that in two years we’ve had an increase in the number of homeless in the county,” Kaplan said.

Nonetheless, the rise illustrates just how far the county must go to accomplish its goal of ending homelessness in 10 years, Kaplan said.

Surprising to some was the obvious concentration of homeless in the county’s south compared to the general population, Kaplan said. East Palo Alto, with 4.4 percent of the population, has 12 percent of the county’s homeless. Neighboring Menlo Park, with 4.3 percent of the population, has 11 percent of the county’s homeless.

African-Americans, who comprise just 2.2 percent of the county’s population, accounted for 31 percent of the homeless population. Veterans made up 27 percent of homeless people, the data indicate.

“The findings from the Homeless Census and Survey are a sobering wake-up call for San Mateo County,” Supervisor Mark Church said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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