The number of homeless people in Temecula more than doubled in the last two years, according to a census.
In 2009, the county counted 69 homeless people in the city. This year, it counted 162, according to the county’s Department of Social Services.
The number counted in 2009 was down significantly from the 105 found in 2007, though this year’s total was still up about 154 percent from that number, according to the census.
Temecula had one of the 10 biggest homeless populations in Riverside County. The only areas with more were Corona, Indio, March Air Reserve Base, Mead Valley, Mecca, Moreno Valley, Nuevo, Riverside and Rubidoux. The census covered 44 areas plus various unincorporated areas.
The surrounding areas’ homeless populations increased more dramatically than Temecula’s.
It increased from five to 40 in Murrieta, one to 156 in Winchester and from none to 178 in Anza.
Temecula’s homeless population grew at almost twice the rate of the county’s average, according to the census. The county counted 3,366 people in 2009, and it found 4,321 in 2011, according to Ron Stewart, deputy director for the social services department. That’s only a 128 percent increase; Temecula’s increased by 235 percent.
Taking Temecula’s census
Ten homeless or formerly homeless volunteers guided nine volunteer census takers through Temecula in January. The guides showed the census takers where the homeless residents usually live, according to the department.
On the morning of the census, the city’s public works department sent a crew to clear out a homeless camp near Murrieta Creek south of Front Street and Temecula Parkway.
Several dozen people lived in the camps, but scattered when the city’s bulldozers began clearing the area, several people who lived in the camp said.
Some of the residents regrouped later that day behind a nearby liquor store. A few said the census takers found them. Most said they did not.
Homelessness in Riverside County
The bad economy is probably to blame for the county-wide growth of homelessness, said Stewart.
“Record unemployment and housing foreclosures made Riverside County one
of the hardest-hit areas in the state and nation,'' he said. “This year's
count clearly indicates the economic downturn has pushed more people out of
their homes and has left them homeless longer.''
The number of people identified as chronically homeless – on the street for more than a year or intermittently unsheltered four or more times in three years – had surged 160 percent, according to the census.
Between 2007 and 2009, the number of homeless veterans increased slightly from 13 to 14 percent of the total homeless population, and the number of homeless people with chronic health issues jumped from 22 to 29 percent, according to the report.
Of the 26 incorporated cities in Riverside County at the time of the
surveys, Riverside had the highest number of dispossessed people with 1,430.
A total of 2,184 homeless people lived in the unincorporated communities.
Point-in-time surveys were instituted by the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development in 2005 and are a condition of federal funding for homeless relief in localities.
The department receives about $6.5 million in HUD funds to support homeless programs annually from the department of housing, Stewart said.
About 200 volunteers and county staff conducted the surveys, he said.
City News Service contributed to this report.