According to the county’s department of social services, the number of homeless people in San Luis Obispo County rose by nearly 32 percent in 2019, compared to a count two years ago. The latest estimated numbers were released Thursday.
This year, on a day in January, volunteers fanned out across the county and counted 1,483 people as homeless. Of those, 74% reported becoming homeless while living in the county, and Atascadero was most frequently cited as the last place they were living before becoming homeless.
“We expected some increase, because heavy rains in 2017 would have caused more people to seek shelter rather than remain in riverbeds and other waterways where they normally would have stayed,” said county homeless services coordinator Laurel Weir in a release accompanying the report.
The county pointed to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which found countywide, the fair market rent on a two-bedroom apartment had gone up 18 percent, while renters’ average hourly wages had increased by nine percent.
After the one-day count, county staffers gave a survey to 418 of those counted as homeless, to flesh out demographic information. 88% said they were unemployed, with half reporting they were unable to look for work. 44% had been in San Luis Obispo County for ten or more years. And as for reasons given for becoming homeless, 30% said they had lost their job, 20% said it was because of issues with alcohol or drugs, and 17% had been evicted from their former residence.
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