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San Mateo County's homeless population has grown significantly since 2019

The results of a one-day survey show a huge rise in the number of unhoused residents

The results of a one-day survey show a significant rise in the number of unhoused residents in San Mateo County since 2019.

According to a just-published report, the count conducted in February found a total of 1,808 people experiencing homelessness throughout the county. Compared with 2019, the number of people living unsheltered is 1,092, a 21% increase, and the number of people living in group shelters or converted hotels is 716, a 17% increase.

County Executive Officer Mike Callagy made the announcement Friday, May 20 during the second in a series of events on ending homelessness called "2022: Our Year of Working Together to End Homelessness." 

“While that number may sound daunting to some, we know we have the ability and the commitment to end homelessness here in San Mateo County,” Callagy said. “We are putting together the resources and supports necessary to create a clear path from homelessness to permanent housing, with significant new shelter resources that have been opened recently and additional ones coming in a matter of months.”

More than 300 volunteers gathered early in the morning on February 24 at ten local deployment sites throughout San Mateo County, braving near freezing temperatures to participate in the February count.

The event, organized by the county’s Human Services Agency in collaboration with local nonprofits, is held biannually to provide a “point-in-time snapshot” of the number and location of people currently experiencing homelessness. In addition to helping inform resource allocation within the local community, the count also satisfies requirements from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to generate a snapshot of homelessness nationwide. 

Agencies that receive federal funding are required to conduct a point in time count every two years; the 2021 count was rescheduled for 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the County, the one day count represents just a small piece of a large, ongoing effort to address homelessness and achieve “functional zero,” meaning anyone who wants housing will be able to access it.

“With the leadership of the Board of Supervisors, we firmly believe the solution to homelessness is providing people with the tools they need to get into permanent, affordable housing,” Callagy said.

In April, as part of its effort to address urgent shelter needs, the county broke ground on a 240-unit Navigation Center in Redwood City, east of Highway 101 at the site of the former the Maple Street Shelter. The Navigation Center is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

In addition to the new units at the Navigation Center, the County has purchased five former motels/hotels for conversion into interim or permanent housing. This February, the County received nearly $16 million in Homekey funds from the state for the purchase, rehabilitation and operation of the 51-room Comfort Inn. The residence will provide permanent housing for formerly homeless people, prioritizing those currently unhoused in Redwood City. 

The county has also purchased Shores Landing in Redwood City (95 units), Pacific Shelter in Redwood City (74 units), the former Stone Villa Inn in San Mateo (44 units) and the Coast House in Half Moon Bay (51 units)

Two hotels—Coast House and Pacific Shelter—currently provide transitional housing, while a third, Stone Villa, will be ready for transitional housing residents in the fall. Formerly homeless seniors now have permanent homes at Shores Landing, and the Comfort Inn will welcome permanent residents later this year. 

2022: Our Year of Working Together to End Homelessness is an ongoing series of convenings, tours and a brain storming session to engage the community in developing solutions to a challenge County leaders have pledged to overcome. The next event “Moving into a Permanent Home,” will be held on Friday, June 3, at 10 a.m. For opportunities to get involved, go to smcendinghomelessness.org.