On Tuesday morning, record numbers of people volunteered for Riverside County’s annual Point in Time Count of the homeless. Nearly 800 people showed up — about double the number who showed up last year.
Nearly a year since the City of Riverside debuted its “Housing First” strategy, officials said they’ll be working hard to find housing for those they count.
During last year’s Point in Time Count, the City of Riverside counted 366 unsheltered people. Emilio Ramirez, Riverside’s Director of the Office of Homeless Solutions, said he can’t say for sure there will be a reduction this year.
“But last count, the last time I saw, it was 292 on the active finding list,” he said.
Back in March, Riverside approved its “housing first” plan: a strategy of connecting the homeless with permanent housing quickly, without barriers to entry — like having to get treatment for drugs or alcohol addiction first.
In order to house the entire unsheltered population, Ramirez said the city needs to house at least 55 people a year over the next nine years. Since January 2018, they’ve housed 116 people.
“So this year, we’re going to break ground on maybe 100 to 150 units,” Ramirez said.
There are currently 168 units in the development pipeline.
Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey says there’s been a lot of support from the faith-based community.
“After the initiative to, or the challenge to end veterans’ homelessness, we knew we needed another partner outside of the V.A. for the chronically homeless, and so I actively called on the faith based community,” he said.
In December, Grove Community Church and the city of Riverside unveiled four homes on the church’s property for families experiencing homelessness.
“So that's exciting takeaway that we hope momentum will continue behind is that other churches will see that and say, ‘Well, I can do I can do one of those,’” Bailey said. “And then we can find the resources to help them build that and find the wrap around services with our team and support.”
Bailey said he’ll be out in the community volunteering for this year’s Point in Time Count. And then afterwards, he’ll be back to making housing first a reality for everyone counted.