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San Mateo County’s homeless count grows with rise of RV dwellers

The number of homeless residents in San Mateo County has increased compared to recent years, and that jump is driven by the rising number of people living in recreational vehicles, county officials concluded from the results of a homeless count released Monday.

During the biennial one-day homeless count on Jan. 31, 400 volunteers fanned out to tally the county’s homeless population, according to the county’s Human Services Agency.

The volunteers counted 1,512 homeless people, up from 1,253 counted in 2017, but lower than the 2011 and 2013 counts. The agency cited the 127 percent increase in the number of people living in RVs as the reason for the overall increase.

Of the 901 unsheltered individuals living in the county, RV dwellers make up 491 of them. The other 611 homeless people counted live in shelters or transitional housing, according to the agency.

The count also found a 24 percent increase in people sleeping on the street since 2017 but a 7 percent decrease in people sleeping in cars and a 31 percent decrease in people living in tents.

In a news release, Human Services Agency director Nicole Pollack said:

“The count is one critical tool to collect information that helps us understand more about those who are experiencing homelessness in our community and their unique circumstances.”

Pollack said:

“With homelessness, as with much in life, one size does not fit all and we really want to know who we are serving and what they need.”

She said the results of the count show that the current housing market contributes to homelessness.

Pollack said:

“The extremely high costs and low vacancy rates in the local housing market remain a challenge. However, we are deeply committed to our homeless populations and have made great strides.”

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