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San Mateo County homelessness jumps 18% even as more people get shelter beds


San Mateo County’s homeless population spiked 18% over the last two years, according to the latest official estimate, even as local officials added around 300 shelter beds to help people get off the street.

The tally released Wednesday identified 2,130 homeless people countywide. More than half lived outdoors, in vehicles or in other places not meant for habitation. The rest stayed in shelters.

Despite the increase, local officials credited the opening of two shelters in Redwood City and San Mateo with boosting the number of homeless people with a roof over their heads. The county found 985 people were staying in shelters, a 38% jump from 2022.

“This means fewer individuals in less safe situations such as on the street or in tents,” Claire Cunningham, director of the county’s Human Services Agency, said in a statement. “And shelters provide case management and supportive services to help residents move toward permanent housing.”

The new numbers stem from the county’s latest biennial “Point-In-Time” homelessness census, taken by a team of volunteers and service providers on a single night in January.

Across the Bay Area, Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties also conducted counts early this year. Alameda County recently reported its homeless population had dipped by 3% to 9,450 people, though Oakland’s population swelled by 9%. San Francisco, meanwhile, saw its number of homeless residents rise 7% to more than 8,300.

Contra Costa County’s numbers are expected soon, while Santa Clara County, which took its tally last year, will not count again until 2025.

The estimates, despite widely seen as an undercount, are crucial to helping cities and counties plan their homelessness response and determine how much state and federal funding they can expect receive.

Despite unprecedented billions of public dollars spent in recent years to combat homelessness, getting people off the streets remains a grave challenge as rising housing costs, job losses, and mental health and addiction issues force others out.

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